Each year, nearly 250,000 patients in the United States die due to medical errors. Not only is that number unacceptable, it’s devastating.
While the causes of adverse patient events vary, one unavoidable similarity to consider is that most adverse events take place in hospitals. The fact is, the longer a patient remains in a hospital, the greater the likelihood that he or she will suffer from preventable patient harm.
In the 1999 landmark book, “To Err is Human: Building a Safer Health System,” it was reported that he likelihood of experiencing an adverse event increased about 6% for each day of hospital stay. Several studies since then have validated the relationship between length of stay and preventable patient harm, including a 2015 report in HealthCatalyst in which El Camino Hospital’s 7.8% reduction in length of stay also resulted in a 14.8% reduction in readmissions, a 55% reduction in healthcare-acquired conditions, and a 32% reduction in the incidence of AHRQ patient safety indicators.
In addition, a 2015 study published in the Canadian Journal of Emergency Medicine reported that Emergency Rooms with a higher percentage of patients meeting length-of-stay benchmarks on a given shift had lower rates of adverse events. No matter how you slice the data, it suggests that the less time spent in the hospital, the better.
To that end, by providing an alternative to hospitalization – when the patient meets discharge criteria – it is not only possible to minimize the number of adverse events each year, but also actually transform the way we practice medicine.
One such alternative to hospitalization is remote patient monitoring, also known as telemonitoring. For patients who are being monitored in an inpatient hospital bed, remote patient monitoring is an ideal solution.
Using Technology to Connect to Patients
The Center for Connected Health Policy defines remote patient monitoring as the use of digital technologies to collect medical and other forms of health data from individuals in one location and electronically transmit that information securely to health care providers in a different location for assessment and recommendations.
More simply, remote patient monitoring enables patients to be monitored outside of conventional clinical settings – usually in the patients’ homes – which generally is thought to increase access to care and decrease healthcare costs. Remote patient monitoring also allows patients to maintain independence, identifies potential complications before they occur, and minimizes the costs of in-home caregivers.
Through remote patient monitoring, healthcare providers can connect with patients 24-hours a day without the need for patients to leave their homes. Through virtual consultations performed through computers, smart phones, and tablets, patients can receive vital health education, tips for improving quality of life, and even instructions for performing simple daily tasks, such as blood pressure readings and insulin delivery.
And, for patients with sensitive conditions or chronic illness, this approach to delivering healthcare dramatically reduces the risk for infection and additional illness that can occur with every hospital admission.
No doubt, hospitals and healthcare executives are extremely focused on eliminating preventable patient harm. However, by implementing remote patient monitoring and reducing the number of days a patient might have to remain in a hospital, we can make even greater strides in making healthcare a little bit safer for everyone.
About Karen Thomas
Karen Thomas is a certified management accountant and the president of Advanced TeleHealth Solutions, one of the leading telehealth monitoring companies in the U.S. Karen is a nationally renowned speaker, a lecturer for Missouri State University’s graduate-level Health Care Administration program, and a contributing author to, “Home Telehealth: Connecting Care Within the Community,” published by Royal Society of Medicine Press Ltd. Karen has appeared on numerous webinars and has spoken at dozens of conferences on the benefits of remote patient monitoring, generating enhanced clinical outcomes, patient engagement, and coordination of care. She is a member of the Missouri Governors Innovation Task Force, a past board member of the National Association for Home Care and Private Duty Home Care Association, a member of the American Telemedicine Association and the American Society on Aging, and a past ex-officio member of the advisory board of HealthCare Technology Association of America.