What If We Could Reinvent the House Call for the Modern World?

The dawn of the digital age ushered in the era of remote medical monitoring. And with the advent of ever-more sophisticated and convenient consumer technology, the digital house call may truly be here.

Andrew Watson, MD, is passionate about his work. As a surgeon at UPMC specializing in digestive disorders, he’s interested in being able to help his patients while they’re at home. Remote monitoring makes that possible. He’s also UPMC’s medical director of telemedicine and vice president of UPMC International in addition to being president-elect of the American Telemedicine Association, which since 1983 has promoted telehealth as a way to improve quality while decreasing costs.

“Telemedicine is the natural evolution of health care in a digital world,” says Dr. Watson. “It is the care of the patient going back to the home.”

The commitment UPMC has made to patient-centered remote care led naturally to its partnership with Vivify Health, creator of the world’s first cloud-based remote care platform using consumer electronics. Nearly universal connectivity and the ubiquity of the internet (as well as smartphones) allow patients and doctors to share information without the inconvenience of travel or the risk of missed signals.

The Vivify approach is customizable and scalable, meaning that hospitals can adapt it to their specialized needs. In some cases, a physician will set the patient up at home with a blood pressure cuff, a pulse oximeter, or other medical equipment along with a tablet computer. For simpler monitoring, patients can use their own smartphones to relay vital information to their doctors’ offices through a central monitoring hub. If a reading triggers an alert or signals an emergency, a telehealth nurse knows immediately and can follow a process to get the patient the help he or she needs.

Patients with congestive heart failure make up the largest group of people connected to UPMC through Vivify. These patients benefit from daily monitoring. People with other chronic conditions or those on antibiotics may use the platform only to answer a few simple questions for their doctors every once in a while.

A key feature of the Vivify Health solution is its focus on asynchronous communication. “If patients have nausea, vomiting, fevers, chills, or diarrhea, or if  they are asleep, they don’t answer the phone or the door or take video calls,” says Dr. Watson. Constant connectivity relays the information without requiring the patient to interact in a way that may be uncomfortable or impossible.

The historical record that they system produces is also valuable. “We’re giving data back to the front lines of medicine,” says Dr. Watson. Health care professionals can examine not just a patient’s critical values from visit to visit but also from day to day.

UPMC has long been dedicated to the development or use of innovative systems that improve care, and its relationship with Vivify is a prime example of this dedication. And it isn’t just a vendor/customer relationship; UPMC is also an investor in Vivify. By backing this innovative company and working with its developers as a knowledge partner, UPMC is leading the way toward the future of remote health care. More than 500 hospitals and payers already use Vivify technology for care management. With UPMC as its partner, the company can continue to develop applications and programs that will bring more patients onto the fold.

“As we deliver care under an increasingly risk-based reimbursement model, we are excited to become a customer, development partner, and investor in Vivify’s scalable population health management technology,” says Tal Heppenstal, president of UPMC Enterprises.

Remote monitoring is a way that the organization can demonstrate and benefit from its commitment to patient-centered care. Unlike approaches that incentivize less interaction or policies that mainly benefit the provider, the surge to telehealth puts the patient’s comfort level first. Results on the provider side are also positive, with reduced readmissions and less emergency department activity. “The average age of our population is 74, the satisfaction is about 91 percent, and the compliance is about 92 percent,” says Dr. Watson. “In the convenience of their own home, these patients get UPMC expert-led and designed care right through their devices. We are taking the healthcare back home. That’s where it belongs.”