Patients with chronic diseases experience highs and lows for metrics such as blood sugar levels, heart rate and blood pressure — with those numbers liable to rise to dangerous levels with very little warning.
And yet, these patients typically only see their physicians between one and four times per year, leaving scant opportunity to measure their health indicators and assess their condition.
This was the case made Tuesday by Stephen Samson, CEO of Accuhealth Technologies, at Splunk’s .conf19 in Las Vegas. By using Splunk to power its remote patient monitoring platform (called “Evelyn”) the company is able to not only measure larger trends in patients’ health indicators but also to intervene when a metric indicates signs of trouble.
“Telemonitoring is no different from cybersecurity or network operations center monitoring,” Samson said. “What we do is, we take data from medical devices, we ingest it into Splunk and we offer a managed service around that. So, instead of it being firewall data, we take in blood glucose data. We take in blood pressure data. We take in weight.”
The Benefits and Challenges of Remote Patient Monitoring
Remote patient monitoring tools have the potential to address what Samson calls the “three problems” of healthcare.
For patients, he said, these solutions allow their treatment plans to centered on real, long-term metrics (rather than occasional readings, which may be skewed for one reason or another). Remote monitoring also helps physicians provide a high level of care to more recipients — an important consideration as more doctors retire. And for payers, the tools can prevent acute incidents, which can result in reactive and costly emergency care.
“We change and impact the lives of our patients with our telemonitoring services,” said Shelby Neal, Accuhealth’s vice president of IT.
One of the challenges of remote patient monitoring tools is integrating them with other technologies — not only so that various tools can work in harmony with one another but so that providers and patients aren’t forced to juggle numerous platforms and remember multiple login credentials. The Evelyn tool relies on OneLogin to manage authentication and access, and the solution also currently integrates with a third-party telemedicine platform.
How Remote Patient Monitoring Works to Save Lives
Neal said the company is exploring ways to integrate additional information — such as data from Yahoo Weather — to improve the performance of its tool and better predict when patients are likely to experience medical events.
Samson brought remote patient monitoring to life with real-life anecdotes about patients who were able to avoid potentially disastrous health outcomes due to early intervention spurred by analytics.
One patient had an alarmingly high blood pressure reading of 220/160. When Accuhealth employees called the patient, she seemed delirious. The company then contacted her cardiologist, who prescribed medication to lower her blood pressure.
Two days before his talk, Samson said, another patient had a high blood glucose level of 308. Accuhealth called her and asked her to measure it again; within those few minutes, the number had risen to 408. “That’s kidney failure — death,” Samson said. “Nothing good is coming from that.”
Accuhealth contacted the woman’s primary care physician, who prescribed more insulin over the phone. Within 15 minutes, the patient’s blood sugar level was back in a safe range.
“She avoided hospitalization,” Samson said. “But who knows what else could have happened. If she wasn’t connected to us, that woman might not be here today. Telehealth works.”