Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center
Remote Patient Monitoring

Remote Patient Monitoring

Today, I want to talk about two things.  The first is that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced this week an extension of the nation's public health emergency related to COVID-19 for 90 days (ending July 15th). This was expected.  However, I am beginning to believe this may be the last extension.  

Of course, no one can say for certain that this will be the last one because we don’t know what the COVID-19 virus will do in the next few weeks. We can hope that the spread of the omicron subvariant in the U.S. will start to wane. But, as I write this, we have seen an uptick in the 7-day moving average of cases. Statistics do indicate, however, fewer hospitalizations—which is a good thing.

What another extension of the public health emergency means is that federal funding will continue for tests, vaccines, and certain treatments for people covered by Medicare and Medicaid. Private insurers are also required to cover all costs associated with COVID tests and vaccines, thanks to public health emergency funding.

The second thing that I wish to mention is Texas Tech Physicians will be doing a pilot on remote patient monitoring, or RPM, as it is known.

RPM is not new—it has been around in various forms for 30 years or so. Just as the name implies, this is monitoring done remotely—typically from the patient’s home. It is well understood that many health issues are more chronic in nature (rather than acute) and therefore continuous monitoring is better than episodic monitoring for certain signs and symptoms (e.g. blood pressure, heart rate, respiration, blood sugar and weight). Conditions that are appropriate for consideration of RPM include (but are not limited to): diabetes, COPD, asthma, hypertension and congestive heart failure. RPM is reported to improve patient compliance, decrease hospitalization, improve access to care, and increase patient satisfaction. While different from RPM, home testing—such as for flu and strep throat—has boomed as a result of the pandemic.

Texas Tech Physicians strives for innovation and collaboration. We think that RPM, especially the way we propose to undertake it, meets both objectives. We want our care to be (in the words of Shantanu Nundy, M.D., whom Dr. Ariel Santos and I had the privilege of interviewing on an episode of Project ECHO): distributed (happen in different settings, including homes), digitally enabled (make use of technology and data), and decentralized (help patients be mindful of their own health circumstances). We think RPM does all three!

We will report back on how the pilot goes.  If you have questions or would like to get involved, give me a call.

Have a great week!