Photo by National Cancer Institute on Unsplash Photo by National Cancer Institute on Unsplash

Through a remote patient monitoring program, healthcare providers can view a patient’s real-time weight, blood pressure, and temperature, breaking barriers to healthcare access.

What if your doctor could receive accurate, real-time medical results straight from your home? It might sound like something straight out of the Jetsons, but a partner program through UVA Health offers just that.

The at-home patient monitoring option will allow six community health organizations throughout the commonwealth to keep track of select patients’ weight, blood pressure, and temperature, without having to step foot in the office. The program will mostly monitor patients with heart failure, but some pregnant patients with a higher risk of premature birth will also receive the care opportunity.

The option, backed by more than $700,000 in grants from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), will equip each of the six facilities with 40 reusable patient-monitoring kits, including tablets with an internet connection and medical equipment such as blood pressure cuffs, thermometers, and scales. 

Novella Thompson, UVA Health’s administrator for population health, explained that through bluetooth technology, the patients’ results from each at-home test would automatically go to their doctor. 

“All a patient has to do is…set them up on their device — whether it’s a tablet or an iPhone or an Android or they’re using one of our iPads — [then] they step on the scales, and that data freely flows into our system. Then it flows in real time into our electronic medical records,” Thompson said. “So physicians, at any point in time, can see that, in addition to [the] clinical escalation team.”

Meeting The Needs

Whether a patient lives in a rural mountainous region without an emergency healthcare provider nearby or lives in a bustling city but lacks access to physically get to a doctor, Thompson noted that transportation is a major barrier to healthcare.

Removing the barriers of travel and time, Thompson said, is an issue that providers have to address “today, in this world of healthcare.”

“A lot of patients in rural areas have to take the day off work to make a primary care appointment, let alone manage a serious chronic disease that has changed their life. Perhaps it’s a new diagnosis or something that they need additional support with,” Thompson said. “Through this means, we’re able to remove the barriers of travel and time and accessibility because we can provide care at a distance while the patient’s in their home or at work or wherever they are when care is needed.” 

The monitoring method meets patients where they are, provides chronic disease management, and ensures that needs are being addressed.

“We have live [registered nurses], live [advanced practice provider] team members, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants watching their vitals. And they recognize trends. They recognize when things aren’t within normal limits and they can discuss medication needs,” Thompson said. “They can discuss additional barriers of inaccessibility to a specialist, and then also address things that are going on beyond the disease, like depression and anxiety around a new diagnosis.”

For individuals facing a new diagnosis, the remote monitoring option also allows medical teams to provide patient support.

“It is so important to be able to educate, provide education, provide that support, and make sure a patient understands not only why they’re being monitored, but what we are monitoring,” Thompson said.

UVA Health further noted that the sites will join Project ECHO, which connects UVA specialists with primary-care providers for mentoring and continuing education sessions designed to expand the scope of care available at primary-care centers across the commonwealth.

Finding A Partner Site

The participating partner sites are sprinkled throughout the commonwealth, from Southwest Virginia to Central Virginia.

The partner sites include:

In addition, the six partner sites will share best practices on how to implement remote patient monitoring in rural areas and overcome challenges such as spotty internet connectivity, UVA Health noted in a press release.