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The Role of Text Messaging In Remote Patient Monitoring

Patient Journey,Patient Satisfaction

Remote patient monitoring is a critical tool in the fight against chronic diseases.

Remote patient monitoring (RPM) allows healthcare providers the opportunity to remotely monitor patients that are in need of constant and consistent attention and care, such as patients with chronic illnesses like diabetes or heart disease. Using RPM, providers can stay on top of a patient's condition even when they are outside of the hospital setting.

However, many RPM systems can be expensive, and they can be difficult to integrate with a hospital’s IT infrastructure. That is why hospitals should evaluate cost-effective text messaging systems as one approach to simplifying their RPM efforts. With texting, it is easy to send reminders to patients about taking medicines or scheduling an appointment, and many RPM devices—like pacemakers, for instance—can send text message alerts straight to a provider if and when an emergency occurs.

Why Patient Monitoring is Critical

It is important to remember that patient monitoring is essential, especially when it comes to combating chronic diseases. Back in 2012, half of all the adults in the US (roughly 117 million people) suffered from at least one chronic health issue such as diabetes or asthma. Moreover, seven out of the top 10 causes of death in 2010 were directly related to chronic diseases. One of the best ways to treat chronic conditions is with regular and consistent treatments. However, the average American struggles with medication adherence and simply showing up for appointments. Roughly half of all American patients do not take their medication as intended, and one out of five prescriptions are never actually filled. Thirty-three to sixty-nine percent of medication-related hospital admissions are directly related to poor medication adherence, and roughly a quarter of a million Americans die each year from poor adherence.

Patients often skip showing up for their doctor appointments as well. No-show rates range from five to fifty-five percent here in the U.S. To effectively treat chronic illnesses; patients must adhere to a strict treatment regimen—this includes not only taking their prescribed medications on a regular basis, but it also involves having the patient consistently attend checkups. When patients do not follow up or stick with their treatments, they end up suffering the consequences.

Text-First Approach to RPM

Many RPM devices, like pacemakers, send text message alerts to providers if an emergency occurs. This communication channel is quick, easy and extremely effective in getting attention. Texting is also well suited for patients who lack a dedicated RPM device but still require constant monitoring. Providers can send timely and relevant text message alerts to these patients that help keep them on track. For instance, tailored prompts can be delivered to ensure medication is being taken properly, that they are not experiencing any severe discomfort or pain, and that they understand what needs to be done to improve or maintain their health. This communication channel in combination with a secure web application can also be used to obtain targeted feedback from patients - helping care teams reach more patients while also improving their overall treatment efforts. Feedback can include the patient's level of pain, specific measures (e.g., blood glucose levels) and confirmation that they took the next step in their treatment plan. If responses are outside of pre-defined ranges, members of the care team can be automatically notified to follow up with the patient. Text messaging is a powerful way to reach more patients and engage in meaningful, ongoing communication.

Patient Value Texting and RPM

As long as patients have an SMS-capable cellphone—and the vast majority of Americans do—providers can quickly and cost-effectively send text alerts with relative ease. It is also important to remember that text messaging is the #1 cell phone activity and most people prefer to interact this way. The same can be said about RPM. An eHealth survey from 2012 noted that 33 percent of patients want their physicians to use remote monitoring technologies whenever possible. Forty percent of older patients, in fact, are eager for their physicians to adopt the technology as well. RPM can help to save lives, and it is a crucial resource in the fight against chronic illnesses. Given the effectiveness of text messaging, healthcare leaders should strongly consider the role that this communication channel can play as part of their overall RPM strategy.

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