Telehealth, RPM Programs Can Benefit Greatly From a Nurse’s Perspective

When the Blessing Health System launched a remote patient monitoring program to extend care for COVID-19 patients to the home, they made sure nurses were involved in every step of the process.

Telehealth strategies

When the Blessing Health System recently launched a remote patient monitoring program to provide care for newly-discharged COVID-19 patients, officials were quick to point out that the platform would allow patients to recover more quickly and comfortably at home.

Often unsaid but just as important is that these platforms also make things better and easier for the care providers at the other end of the technology – specifically, the nurses.

“Nurses are the trusted friend of the patients,” notes Rose Ghattas, the virtual health coordinator for the Illinois-based two-hospital health system. They’re often that daily connection to care in the hospital, she notes, and the go-to person for doctors and other specialists in the care team.

That role doesn’t change when the patient goes home. In fact, it’s made more important by the fact that care is now managed through mHealth devices and telemedicine platforms that transmit data back and forth from home to hospital. And it’s the nurses who are the first to see that data and act on it.

“We’re the go-to for the provider,” Ghattas points out.

The coronavirus pandemic threw many things into turmoil, not the least of which were health systems and hospitals that had to shift on the fly from in-person to virtual care. In many cases they adapted or launched new telehealth programs quickly and ironed out the kinks later, and relied on their doctors and nurses to get used to the technology and workflows.

With RPM programs, however, many are taking a different tack, and rolling out platforms after careful planning.

Ghattas – a former home health nurse – says nurses were included in the planning stages from the start, taking part in surveys and meetings that mapped out how the program, launched in a partbnership with Cloud DX, should work. And administrators were careful to make the platform nurse-friendly, she says.

For example, they know better than anyone whether a patient who’s been in the hospital will be able to handle an RPM program at home, and they’ll be the ones who introduce selected patients – and their family and caregivers – to the technology, and teach them what they need to know. So who better to help design the process for selecting patients and getting them prepared?

“One of the things we’re looking at is what’s the patient’s trend,” says Ghattas. “And you look at that while they’re still in the hospital,” to get a good idea of whether they’re ready to go home and can benefit from an RPM program.

Just as important, she says, nurses often chat with patients and their families, and will pick up on habits and other factors that might affect how they respond to an RPM program or how well the monitoring works for them. It gives nurses the opportunity to help patients understand the value of remote monitoring and adhering to a care management plan, and to help patients become more active in their own recovery.

These factors, Ghattas says, allow a health system like Blessing Health to integrate its RPM program into the care routine, rather than creating a siloed program.

“It makes us a cohesive team,” she adds.

While the RPM program was launched to handle care for patients with COVID-19 who don’t need to stay in the hospital, it will be expanded to handle other populations, such as patients with chronic conditions and those needing care management outside the hospital. Ghattas says those programs will give the health system an opportunity to emphasis the team approach to care, and to make sure nurses are always involved in that team.

“We all know that recovery works better when you do it at home,” she says. “We need to make sure that it’s part of a very broad and robust program (that transitions seamlessly from hospital to home) and keeps everyone involved in their care.”

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