As Delta Variant Surges, Will RPM Use Rise Again to Help Alleviate Hospitalization Overflow?

With the super-contagious Delta variant causing COVID-19 surges right now, mask mandates are being issued again, hospital beds are filling up, and vaccination requirements are starting to be enforced in some public places and even in some businesses.

After months of steady decline, COVID-19 case numbers are headed back in the wrong direction. The Delta variant is currently fueling a nationwide surge, with all 50 states and Washington, D.C., reporting a rise in cases and 38 states seeing an increase of 50 percent or more over the past week, as of August 16. An August 17 news article reports that 98.8% of COVID cases in the U.S. are the Delta variant.

More cases mean more hospitalizations. We continue to hear about crowded hospitals in the hotbed states like Florida, Texas and others. While news of the significant rise in cases seems to be encouraging more people to get the vaccine, it is likely several more weeks of rising COVID cases before numbers start to go down.

The scenario is leading to the need for a solution to crowded hospitals. The value of remote patient monitoring (RPM) became very apparent this winter as the surge of COVID-19 hospitalizations created an overflow in hospital rooms and ERs. Providers began to use RPM more widely as a means of expanding care management into the home because some patients can have their oxygen level monitored at home, creating a safe, effective way to free up hospital beds.

WITHmyDOC’s RPM@Home kit allows less severe COVID patients to be monitored daily without leaving their home using a tablet and pulse oximeter. Providers can keep an eye on the patient’s oxygen level while they are at home and make adjustments when necessary. The kit also allows physicians to set target parameters for each patient’s vital signs. The system will trigger a critical alert if the patient’s vital signs fall out of their normal range. At that point, with a COVID-19 patient, the physician can decide whether an at-home treatment modification is in order, whether the amount of oxygen the patient receives needs to change, or whether the patient needs to be admitted to the hospital. A unique feature of WITHmyDOC’s kit is that if the patient is on oxygen, the physician’s monitoring dashboard shows how much oxygen the patient is taking, in addition to changing their prescribed level of oxygen.

The ability to monitor the oxygen level of less severe COVID patients at home through RPM not only frees up hospital beds, but also means the patient is happier. It serves as

a risk mitigation tool that proactively protects patients, reduces the spread of infection and helps alleviate hospital capacity issues.

Last fall, due to the rush of new COVID-19 patients in hospitals, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) launched its Acute Hospital Care at Home program, providing new allowances for hospitals to treat patients in their homes using telehealth and RPM options like RPM@Home. Designed for patients who meet acute inpatient or overnight observation admission criteria, the program considers the patient’s home to be part of the hospital. According to CMS, hospitals using RPM have found they can deliver hospital-level care in their patients’ homes with lower readmission rates, more physical mobility and a positive patient experience.

With ICU’s at or near capacity in many hospitals nationwide right now and conditions projected to worsen over the next few weeks, monitoring patients from home can be another effective solution to minimizing the spread of infectious diseases.

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