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Remote patient monitoring technology major focus of new AMA guide

The American Medical Association created the Digital Health Implementation Playbook, which provides a step-by-step guide to technology implementation, with a focus on remote patient monitoring.

Successfully managing chronic diseases increasingly means using digital health technology and going beyond the...

four walls of a clinic, which is why the American Medical Association released a guide to help healthcare organizations do just that.

Michael Hodgkins, chief medical information officer at AMA, based in Chicago, said the main impetus for the release of the Digital Health Implementation Playbook was to provide a resource for physicians looking to implement digital health technology to assist with monitoring patients. The playbook focuses on remote patient monitoring technology and features a step-by-step guide to best practices for implementation.

"The playbook is really designed to be a step-by-step guide, whether you're a small practice or large system, to things you have to consider and work through to successfully implement a solution," Hodgkins said.

Main takeaways from AMA digital health technology guide

Michael Hodgkins, chief medical information officer, American Medical AssociationMichael Hodgkins

Hodgkins said the AMA convened a meeting in January with around 20 leaders in health IT and medicine to discuss barriers to digital health technology adoption and how the AMA could help. Hodgkins said the AMA discovered "somebody needed to aggregate what's been learned in the marketplace about what works and what doesn't work when it comes to adoption of these solutions."

The first step along the digital health technology journey highlighted in the playbook involves being clear about the business challenge an organization is trying to solve.

"Too often, we're attracted to a bright, shiny object, but you don't start with technology in mind; you start with the problem in mind," Hodgkins said. "Technology is not in and of itself sufficient; it's an enabler. It's important to clearly identify what problem you're trying to solve and why you're trying to solve it before you go any further."

The playbook is really designed to be a step-by-step guide, whether you're a small practice or large system.
Michael HodgkinsCMIO, American Medical Association

Furthermore, Hodgkins said the playbook highlights important steps to take when considering digital health technology implementation. The playbook is broken down into 12 steps, with the first six focused on the following:

  1. Identify a need.
  2. Form the right team to address the need.
  3. Define what a successful health technology implementation looks like.
  4. Evaluate health IT vendors.
  5. Make the case for purchasing a new product.
  6. Contract with a vendor.

The remaining six steps focus on remote patient monitoring technology for hypertension patients, in particular. Hodgkins said the AMA chose to focus on remote patient monitoring technology for hypertension patients for multiple reasons, such as the fact that only half of patients diagnosed with hypertension are successfully managed outside of the clinic or physician's office.

"You need to get more measurements at different times per day ... and we have this example where remote monitoring is now increasingly considered for this particular category -- hypertension," Hodgkins said. "There is evidence accumulating in other diseases that asynchronous monitoring in a more virtual way is going to be necessary to successfully manage a variety of chronic diseases."

Get started with the AMA Digital Health Implementation Playbook

Step one of the Digital Health Implementation Playbook focuses on identifying a need or areas within an organization that need to improve. In this section, the American Medical Association suggests creating a list of challenges within the organization, including where efficiency is lost, where staff encounters pain points and where patients' satisfaction suffers.

AMA suggests identifying the need and envisioning an outcome the organization hopes to achieve before implementing any new digital health technologies. After identifying a need, envisioning an outcome and prioritizing problems that would most contribute to the organization if solved, AMA suggests researching technology capable of delivering the organization's desired outcome before choosing what to implement.

The goal of this section is to help organizations avoid using new digital health technologies that will ultimately not contribute to organizational improvements.

Enhancing the digital health technology guide

Hodgkins said the AMA plans to test how effective the playbook is by working with a number of pilot sites, ranging from small practices to large health systems that are interested in implementing digital health and remote patient monitoring technology.

"We're also going to be looking at the economic impact of implementing remote monitoring solutions in a practice. How does it affect the economics of a practice overall?" Hodgkins said.

He added that the AMA will revise the playbook as necessary in future versions.

"Going forward, our intention will be to not only update any sections in the first part that would benefit from it as we learn from use, but to add new focus areas," Hodgkins said.

Focusing on digital health and remote patient monitoring technology implementation is important for the future of healthcare, particularly as the number of patients with a chronic disease will eventually outstrip the healthcare workforce, Hodgkins said.

"There's this looming gap between demand and supply. And if for no other reason, we have to rethink the delivery of care for these chronic diseases," Hodgkins said. "We have to engage in the remote measurement and management of chronic disease, and we have to have better ways of engaging the individual patient, families or caregivers to be successful."

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