Remote Patient Engagement in Post Covid World
by Anirban Dutta
The world has changed. Suddenly everybody’s life got impacted because of Covid-19, mostly in a negative way. What looked like a shock and an interim nightmare started becoming the new normal. We all hope there will be a vaccine and/or a cure, but we do not know when. Even with a cure or vaccine, the world will still not be the same place. Consumers got used to what I call “Amazon way”; the ability to order goods and services online that is easily delivered to your doorstep.
Healthcare providers, like restaurant owners jumping on the Grubhub platform to deliver food, rapidly started offering some version of remote patient engagement. Which, for the most part was telehealth aka servicing patients by Zoom. The US government, in response to the pandemic, loosened the HIPAA related regulations, which made the transition easier. If the technology service providers tried their best to adapt to HIPAA, it is all kosher for now. Further details on Covid-19 and HIPAA is available at https://www.hhs.gov/hipaa/for-professionals/special-topics/hipaa-covid19
Remote patient engagement goes beyond telehealth. As healthcare providers are forced to engage in remote patient engagement, I would like to share some core tenets that we have learned from our experience.
Core Tenets of Remote Patient Engagement
Defining Soul and Identity –Providers need to soul search and decide who they are. As a provider, you can decide if you want to be the Four Seasons or the Motel 6 in the provider world. Both are useful but services different clientele.
Four Seasons like providers can add value-added services charged separately not covered by insurance. With one of our portfolio companies Prego Power, we have been helping a client with setting up a personal concierge who would check on pregnant moms by calling them and being there just for them. A human touch for a special mom.
However, if the client base is all Medicare patients, remote patient engagement may be limited to automated tools like secured texting, telehealth, webinars etc. These coupled with standard features like patient portals, remote payment, and insurance verification online or by phone will do the job.
Regardless of the approach, patient wellbeing and authentic concern for care would go a long way in this touchless remote patient engagement model.
Value Focus — As the US healthcare landscape is moving from “fee for service”, to “value-based care”, it is extremely important to think beyond reimbursements aspect, to practical application. All or at least a majority of patient communication should provide some instant value. For example, the generic messaging should be around educating patients, informing them of something exciting at the clinic or hospital which may directly affect the patient.
Proactive Care — The normalization of remote management and monitoring is a great opportunity for providers to do proactive care rather than reactive care. Automated patient management tools like care plan managers, medication reminders, concierge, etc. can provide ongoing guidance without adding overhead. In one of our Prego Power clients, we encountered a patient who had a unique case of gestational diabetes with dairy intolerance. Her provider was able to take our gestational diabetes care plan and made small changes to it for her, which allowed her to self-monitor her pregnancy and use an appropriate diet along the way. The usage of monitoring tools like blood sugar monitor, blood pressure monitor etc. that can transmit results to an app would be extremely beneficial.
Table Stakes — The new normal will have table stakes like telehealth video call capabilities, secured messaging, secured document exchange, patient portals with capabilities like appointment booking, payment gateway and insurance verification, etc. These will be coupled by providing appropriate messaging via social media channels like Instagram, Facebook, etc.
Patient Buy-In — Many providers are realizing that patients are not used to remote care. No shows on Zoom appointments are rampant. Patients are failing to fill inappropriate data in the monitoring tools. Also, there may be clientele who are not as technically savvy or do not have the means to have a home big enough where the patients can have a confidential discussion with their provider. It is critical for the provider to invest in educating patients on the protocols and tools, by setting up webinars, videos, and having access for patients to talk on the phone to clarify doubts.
It is very easy to get wrapped up in tools and technologies and lose the purpose of patient engagement. Spending a few minutes to jot down the structure and purpose can help a long way. I am passionate about this field and spend a lot of time talking to healthcare providers and sharing my experience with patient challenges.
Feel free to email me any thoughts anytime!
Anirban Dutta is a healthcare technology entrepreneur. He is the co-founder and CEO of three companies:
1) https://pregopower.com >> Maternity guidance, engagement, and analytics platform
2) https://medevantage.com >> A patient engagement platform for mid-market hospitals
3) https://www.compumatrice.com >> A healthcare leaning software services provider