Doctor on telehealth visit with patient

Home remote patient monitoring and telehealth saved lives and transformed healthcare during the COVID-19 pandemic. That’s according to researchers at University Hospitals and Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland who said the technologies should be more widely used after the public health emergency ends.

In an opinion article in the Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers said continuous monitoring of a patient’s pulse rates and heart rates were dependent on their location within hospitals prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. But during the pandemic, wider use of hospital-at-home and other acute-care programs has allowed that monitoring to switch to the home in an effort to keep patients safe from the coronavirus and to free up space for sicker patients in the hospital. 

University Hospitals Chief Quality and Transformation Officer Peter Pronovost, M.D., said one of the great lessons from the pandemic is that patients can be monitored based on risk, not on location.

 “Home monitoring and hospital at-home models offer the potential to transform care and potentially allow a substantial proportion of hospitalized patients to receive care from home,” Pronovost explained. 174

Despite advances in remote patient monitoring and telehealth over the past two years, the researchers said there are still barriers in widespread use at many health systems. The researchers advised creating service lines within hospitals, such as emergency medicine to coordinate the use of remote monitoring. They also recommended hospitals have the proper billing mechanism in place to ensure the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, as well as private insurers, cover the services. Additionally, they said hospitals need to create protocols that would dictate which patients would benefit from in-home monitoring.

CMS launched the Hospital Without Walls program in March 2020, which gave hospitals broader flexibility in delivering care beyond their facilities. Approximately 200 hospitals and hospital systems are participating in the program. There is no word yet on whether CMS will continue or expand the program beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.