During the height of the pandemic, doctors across the country used remote technology to track COVID-19 patients’ health from their homes in an effort to reduce crowding at hospitals. Now, a DC-area hospital system is preparing to use the technology for patients with other illnesses and diseases.
“It’s definitely a way for you to have peace of mind when you’re not right there in the hospital,” said 51-year-old Andrew Sarmast, who worried about his health after catching COVID.
The married father of two is immunocompromised –– having had a kidney transplant in 2019 –– and reached out to his doctors at MedStar Health.
Within hours, he was infused with monoclonal antibodies and went on remote patient monitoring, or RPM, which tracked his vital signs several times a day with a pulse oximeter.
The information was recorded on an app and then monitored by a health care provider on the other end.
“Even though I wasn’t connected with them there at the hospital, I was still connected at home. I mean, it was basically taking my vitals, my oxygen level,” Sarmast said.
“The vital signs that are collected by those devices are displayed to that critical care team to create alerts to suggest to that clinical care team, hey, here’s a number that’s problematic. This patient needs your attention. Follow up,” Medical Director of the MedStar Telehealth Innovation Center Dr. Ethan Booker said.
More than 10,000 COVID-19 patients have been enrolled in remote patient monitoring with MedStar Health since the start of the pandemic.
“The ability to sort of put a safety net around that person that I’m going to let go from the hospital is really important to me as an emergency physician,” Booker said.
He said MedStar Health is expanding its remote patient monitoring services to serve greater numbers of primary care patients, including those with chronic conditions such as hypertension, congestive heart failure and diabetes.
Remote patient monitoring will also be a useful tool for doctors this fall, Booker said.
“Monitoring of things like pneumonia or influenza and we expect to continue to use that capacity as next year’s flu season comes around,” he said.
Booker said the technology has evolved over the past two years –– making it easier and more convenient for both patients and physicians –– while making room and resources for more high-risk patients in the hospital.
As for Sarmast, he said his equipment was covered by insurance and he can easily use it again, if he needs it.
“If they ever want me to reactivate it, I can do that in a second,” Sarmast said.