Industry Voices—Breaking down barriers to remote monitoring in healthcare is critical with COVID-19

A woman is wearing a face mask on the sidewalk
Embracing preventive measures now—including arming seniors and at-risk individuals with remote monitoring devices—will better prepare us to face any future pandemic issues, whether COVID-19-related or not, Arnol Rios writes. (Getty/filadendron)

COVID-19 has forced the U.S. healthcare system to fast-track the utilization of key tools like virtual care visits and remote monitoring.

These technologies had slowly begun to pick up adoption speed before COVID-19, but they also faced massive roadblocks in the form of reimbursement challenges and fears of privacy and security related to personal health information. During COVID-19, and as we prepare for a potential second wave of COVID-19, these concerns have become less of a barrier as speed and saving lives has become the priority.

An array of companies have launched remote monitoring tools at enterprise scale to support the COVID-19 pandemic. Many of these tools are focused on monitoring the symptoms of patients already dealing with COVID-19, but as the U.S. and many other countries begin to reopen, the likelihood of a second wave of COVID-19 is becoming more real.

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That means we have a real opportunity that we didn't have the first time—the opportunity to prepare and establish preventive measures.

RELATED: Tech experts: Widespread adoption of telemedicine, remote monitoring 'here to stay'

There are two key groups specifically that we can use remote monitoring technology to better prepare for a second wave: at-risk populations (like patients with comorbidities and seniors) and front-line healthcare workers.

Remote monitoring for seniors, at-risk individuals, and COVID-19 patients 

As we plan for a potential second wave, it's important that we utilize this time to swiftly drive innovation and look for more opportunities to protect at-risk populations like seniors. One specific opportunity is to broaden the utilization of remote monitoring technology not only for patients who have contracted COVID-19 but also for those most likely to be impacted by the virus, including seniors and people dealing with multiple comorbidities.

Embracing preventive measures now—including arming seniors and at-risk individuals with remote monitoring devices—will better prepare us to face any future pandemic issues, whether COVID-19-related or not. Mobile health tech applications have continued to innovate, but providers that don't adopt a remote health monitoring strategy now may create more issues for their patients down the line. 

RELATED: The COVID-19 pandemic will have a long-term impact on healthcare. Here are 4 changes to expect

The issue for providers is that these strategies must include a ready-made hardware and corresponding software system that can handle the complex needs of at-risk populations groups, and innovative remote monitoring applications should be able to fast-track the availability of a solution in preparation for this potential second wave. Doing so will ensure that the U.S. healthcare system can more effectively monitor, identify, and engage seniors and at-risk individuals.

Supporting healthcare workers on the front lines of COVID-19

During this first wave of COVID-19, Sony had the opportunity to offer advisory services and hardware as part of a collaborative effort at Cork University Hospital. The idea was to implement a remote early warning system for the detection of COVID-19 symptoms among front-line medical staff.

The remote monitoring system that Cork used specifically identifies healthcare workers who may be developing a high temperature, a key indicator in the onset of COVID-19. By identifying healthcare workers showing early signs of COVID-19, Cork could help reduce the spread of the disease by more quickly allowing them to self-isolate. 

RELATED: Providence St. Joseph using Twistle remote monitoring technology for 700 COVID patients

With more time, and in preparation for a potential phase two of COVID-19, even more employers—especially healthcare providers—should be equipped with a remote monitoring technology platform that can keep essential healthcare workers safe while also reducing the spreading of the virus.

The possibility of phase two of COVID-19 may be hard to even consider at this point, but many experts warn it could be inevitable.

Thus, it is important that we prepare now for the possibility. Companies in the process of fast-tracking development of their remote monitoring technologies should not put their foot on the brake at this time. For the health and safety of everyone, they should look for new ways to expedite innovations—and providers, health plans, and essential businesses should prioritize remote monitoring as part of their proactive and preventive strategies for confronting any further spread of COVID-19.

Arnol Rios is head of business development at Takeoff Point, a Sony company that provides the mSafety Platform in North America.

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