How different patient groups benefit from remote care
- Ole Daniel Nitter
Remote care can be used to manage a wide range of diagnoses across multiple clinical settings, often empowering patients and producing tangible health benefits.
Remote care platforms offer the opportunity for patients and carers to communicate with health staff, monitor the patient’s condition, and follow up the patient in their own home. For patients, remote care offers a sense of security, convenience and an opportunity to manage and improve their own health. From the perspective of healthcare providers, remote care can improve quality of care while allowing staff to effectively devote their time according to different patient’s needs. For example, the use of digital remote care can reduce hospital admissions by close to40 per cent in certain patient groups.
But according to Meetali Kakad, Chief Medical Officer at Dignio, remote care also has a lot to offer in terms of improving patient health.
“The goal of remote care isn’t just to save time and money by reducing physical check-ups. To be a successful tool, it must also add value to the treatment and patient experience as well,” she states.
The goal of remote care isn’t just to save time and money by reducing physical check-ups. To be a successful tool, it must also add value to the treatment and patient experience as well.
Kakad, a public health physician whose career has included stints at the WHO, the National Health Service, and the Norwegian hospital sector, points to three ways remote care help to improve patient treatments:
“Firstly, it empowers the patient to take more ownership of their health and treatment by giving them an active role in monitoring and managing their own condition. Secondly, it gives medical staff better data to inform decisions: a visit to the GP may only give a snapshot of the patient’s condition, but remote care platforms allow us to gather data on symptoms and measurements in between visits. This can allow us to work more preventively to avoid or reduce complications,” she says.
Firstly, it empowers the patient to take more ownership of their health and treatment by giving them an active role in monitoring and managing their own condition. Secondly, it gives medical staff better data to inform decisions.
“Lastly, remote care makes it easier for healthcare providers to prioritise which patients need to be seen in person and who can safely be managed remotely. This helps us to use our resources wisely without reducing quality of care.”
As such, the usefulness of remote care is not limited to any one diagnosis. Nevertheless, there are a few areas where it has already demonstrated its potential:
Improving outcomes and empowering patients with chronic disease
To manage chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, strokes, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), doctors often work with patients and home care services to develop personalised treatment plans. These plans may combine remote patient monitoring with medication and specific dietary or lifestyle advice. In such scenarios, remote care can be highly beneficial.
“Remote care is a great tool with chronic diseases. It makes it easier for patients to get to know and follow their condition. We’re talking about concrete symptoms, vital measurements and general condition: when patients can report on these regularly from their own home, it is easier for them and their care providers to see how the treatment is working and make adjustments if needed.”
With remote care platforms providing accurate, regular and relevant information, it is possible to react faster to developments.
“Take a patient with COPD for example,” Dr Kakad says. “A productive (wet) cough and a change in bodytemperature over one or two days may indicate onset of a chest infection, depending on the patient. If we can spot this remotely, it is easy for the clinician to see what is happening and get the patient started on an appropriate treatment. This means that you catch developments earlier and prevent deterioration without having to set up a doctor’s appointment — this is very useful across a range of chronic diseases.”
Finally, Dr Kakad points to how remote care can be empowering for individuals with chronic disease.
“Instead of being passive recipients of health care, remote care enables patients to participate actively. It’s a form of digital self-management: remote care platforms provide concrete tools that help patients manage their own condition together with health personnel.”
“As such, management of a condition becomes a far more dynamic process than just going to the doctor and receiving a list of instructions. Through remote care, the patient is actively monitoring, and communicating about their own health. Responsibility and empowerment are powerful tools for motivation.”
Aiding cancer treatment
“Remote care can be very useful before, during and after cancer treatment,” Kakad says.
“During chemotherapy every treatment dose must be adjusted according to the patient’s weight, and their white blood cell count and overall state of health needs to be assessed. Remote care can be used to provide these details in advance and with fewer trips to the hospital. This makes it far easier to adjust the right chemotherapy dose in advance. Proper utilisation of remote care tools can also help reduce waste of precious cancer treatment resources.
“Patients can’t do chemotherapy if they have an infection, but in some cases, patients inadvertently turn up to a chemo session where an infection is identified, and the chemo has to be cancelled.If we can identify signs of infection at home, we can treat the patient’s infection and save them an unnecessary trip to the hospital. In addition, the clinic has time to fill the vacant spot with another patient. Patients can also record and receive prompt advice regarding post-chemotherapy side-effects which can be pretty extensive.”
She predicts that remote care will see extended use in cancer treatment in the years to come.
“A remote care platform can also be used to keep an eye on side effects of other types of cancer treatment and rehabilitation. For example, we’re involved in a research projects assessing the use of digital remote care on post-surgical lung cancer patients. We’re working with the hospital to develop efficient means of tracking recovery and supporting lung rehabilitation- as well as identifying which patients need to travel to the specialist centre for outpatient follow up and those that may be followed up locally, which may be more convenient.”
As we see with other chronic disease patients, remote care can give a greater sense of participation and ownership.
And once more, Dr Kakad reiterates the importance of the empowerment that remote care can provide.
“As we see with other chronic disease patients, remote care can give a greater sense of participation and ownership. This can be helpful for cancer patients who, understandably, may experience feelings of powerlessness and loss of control.”
Reducing hospital admissions in care homes
Remote care solutions is increasingly used in care homes.
“We are working closely with Mastercall, a third sector provider in the UK, providing medical care to care homes. They use Dignio’s platform to keep track of measures like pulse, oxygen saturation, temperature and weight for certain groups of at-risk patients. They use this to identify deterioration and intervene earlier. The result has been satisfied patients, families and clinicians and a drop in readmission rates of 34 per cent — a dramatic improvement in health outcomes and health care utilization.”
“We observe a trend where those who are admitted to care homes have greater clinical and care needs. Dealing with this increased demand safely and effectively will warrant more use of digital remote care.”
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