Collaborating on Remote Monitoring Tools to Help Combat COVID-19
The pandemic has greatly accelerated the adoption of telehealth, emerging as a valuable tool to clinicians not only during the COVID-19 pandemic, but beyond. It’s clear that telehealth and virtual visits will only continue to gain momentum as an important care delivery method – not replacing in-person care – but one that can address previously unmet needs and help overcome barriers to access. From remote monitoring devices to wearables and AI-powered insights, these innovations will help narrow the gap between virtual and in-person care, driving better patient outcomes.
I learned firsthand the impact of telehealth solutions through Intel’s collaboration with Cleveland Clinic Florida, a nonprofit academic medical center with hospitals and family centers located across the U.S. Intel and Cleveland Clinic are collaborating to identify Intel technology that can help Cleveland Clinic deploy next generation healthcare solutions, including most recently on deploying an innovative remote monitoring platform that was used to help treat patients during the pandemic. The solution is designed to monitor patients at home, including those who currently have COVID-19, as well as pulmonary outpatients with borderline low oxygen saturations.
As part of its home monitoring platform, Cleveland Clinic Florida patients who tested positive for COVID-19 (or suspected infection) could enroll in a daily monitoring system that monitored their condition. Each day, the patients would enter in their symptoms, temperature and oxygen levels, which were then reviewed by their care team and used to assess their progress. Any abnormal response would send a real-time message to their care team for follow up. As a result, the program helped address emergent symptoms faster, avoiding hospital admissions and an inpatient surge during the pandemic. Additional remote monitoring devices that automatically track heart rate and other symptoms were also employed to treat patients with more serious chronic issues.
While the value of these solutions became clear with the pandemic, introducing remote monitoring solutions across Cleveland Clinic’s locations presented several challenges. Foremost, was the issue of introducing an unfamiliar tool during the largest crisis healthcare providers had ever faced. Some physicians were uncomfortable using remote monitoring tools on a disease they were still trying to understand, and initially only used the platform for those patients who already appeared to be healthy. Additionally, resources in the hospital were limited, and fitting patients with remote devices was deprioritized as staff focused on other issues. As they were trained and became more familiar with the platform, Cleveland Clinic’s staff came to realize the benefits of using remote monitoring, particularly for patients who were at risk for heart and respiratory failure.
There remain many promising areas where telehealth can have a significant impact moving forward. For example, patients who need to schedule a pre-op or post-op check in may be able to set up a remote call with their doctor without needing to come in person, increasing convenience and alleviating cost. Additionally, telehealth is being used to reimagine the ways we treat patients with long-term chronic conditions. Using remote monitoring, doctors can monitor their patients’ vital signs from home, and order additional tests or visits depending on the outcome.
As cloud, 5G and especially AI grow, telehealth services will increase in sophistication and in the reliability of data being collected. By infusing remote monitoring tools with AI, these tools can help alleviate the burden of constantly monitoring a patient’s condition carried by physicians and caregivers, who are often overwhelmed with information. As the AI identifies new patient patterns and trends, the value of predictive analytics will grow, for example, using data to predict which patients are most likely at risk for being readmitted to the hospital. As physicians are trained to capture more signs and symptoms from tools, caregivers can be freed up to focus on other work.
The potential for telehealth solutions is limitless. As Intel and Cleveland Clinic’s collaboration has shown, while providers may face initial challenges in implementing new telehealth solutions, the benefits to both physicians and patients can be substantial, telehealth will help to define healthcare’s future. It’s not hard to imagine a place where care once limited to hospitals and clinics can be extended to any place, 24/7. As Dr. Potenti from Cleveland Clinic Florida says, “In the future, we are going to take patients outside the hospital and keep them outside the hospital.”
To learn more about how Intel and Cleveland Clinic Florida collaborated together to drive telehealth solutions forward during the pandemic, check out the ATA podcast with me and Cleveland Clinic’s Dr. Fabio Potenti here.
Chris Gough is worldwide general manager of Health and Life Sciences at Intel Corporation.