How remote care can take patients, docs to next level

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Given the steady stream of new devices entering the healthcare market, it might be easy to start thinking improvements in healthcare can come from technological advances alone. But it's more complicated than that.

More often, improving healthcare boils down to identifying the gaps in the ways care is delivered, and figuring out how to fill them.

Kevin Quinn, senior vice president of sales and account management for New York-based AMC Health, says that while his company was focused on using technology to improve remote care, it “was created with the idea that using health IT can’t be just about the technology."

Instead, he said, "technology is a tool that should be used to enhance the experience of both patients and clinicians" – one best put to work “helping customers recognize where their gaps are" and helping make those gaps disappear.

Working with customers such as Pennsylvania's Geisinger Health System and Minnesota's HealthPartners, Quinn says AMC is “constantly vetting new technology” in order to add to its suite of services.

As he sees it, three groups – physicians, patients and health system administrators – each stand to benefit from the application of new IT to the delivery of remote care services.

  1. For physicians, greater clarity. While remote care, including telemedicine, is a rapidly expanding field, Quinn said the challenge is to help clinicians “connect with patients in a more meaningful way.” That is, too often a clinical team makes a decision about a remote chronic patient based on only two or three data points. But with a more effective use of a range of biometric devices, those data points, and the clarity they provide about the patient’s condition, can be increased to provide more meaningful information from the patient’s home.
  2. For patients, greater understanding. Of course, biometric devices such as blood glucose meters can give remote network nurses the numbers that indicate when a patient’s condition has changed, but they can’t really point to why. That has to come from the patient. Quinn said AMC has found that improving a provider’s capacity to communicate regularly with remote patients leads to a stronger bond of trust between patients and clinicians, which leads in turn to more, as well as more useful, clinical information. And that information can then be turned around to help patients understand how to take better care of themselves.
  3. For managers, more effective population management and better ROI. Technology costs money, and, not surprisingly, managers are often wary of investing in it. As Quinn sees it, the problem when it comes to remote patient care is that the manner in which newly available data has been managed hasn’t been applied to larger patient panels. “The key” he said, “is figuring out how to help clinicians use [the new data] and to help them focus it on the patient.” Following tangible workflow enhancements, measured in part by improved outcomes for a larger range of patients, the ROI becomes easier to realize.

In the end, there are no silver bullets, said Quinn. But using technology to fill gaps in remote care “can help providers make an immediate impact on the lives of their patients.”

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