In our last blog post on remote patient monitoring (RPM), we covered ways to assess if RPM makes sense for your practice and how to define goals for your program. With those areas covered, it’s time for what often feels like the most daunting part: selecting a partner.
Along with the intensification of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, a variety of new vendors have entered the market to address the growing need for RPM. However, it can be difficult to determine which companies can truly add clinical value.
Fortunately, the American Medical Association’s Digital Health Implementation Playbook has defined best practices for evaluating and contracting with digital health vendors. We’ve incorporated them, along with our own learnings, into the recommendations here.
Beginning the Search
Because you’ve determined your organization’s goals and outlined metrics for success, you already have a rubric for evaluating potential partners. The trick is finding the right mix of two or three partners to seriously consider — no practice has time to hear out 12 different vendor proposals.
While there may be many options at first, you should be able to narrow them down by requiring the vendors to meet these criteria:
- Proven Experience. Have they already launched and scaled RPM at other healthcare organizations? Can they name customers and active programs?
- Clinical Evidence. Do they have peer-reviewed research demonstrating the clinical utility of their solution? Are there real-life examples of this solution improving patient outcomes?
- Technical Viability. Are they able to support your existing workflows? Can they work with you to share clinically relevant data with staff at the point of care? Do they meet your security and privacy requirements?
If multiple candidates excel in these areas, then you can use other important factors like cost and time-to-implement to help compare them.
Making the Decision
Once you have your shortlist, you can begin scheduling more in-depth meetings and demos. These are not only an opportunity to see if the platform would work for your patients and staff, but also if the vendor would serve you well as a partner from implementation through scaling.
Whether you’re in a private practice with limited resources or a health system with dozens of facilities, you will need a partner who can troubleshoot problems and help you solve challenges like training clinical staff and enrolling patients. If it seems like the technology itself is the only thing they’re selling, that’s a red flag. Beyond the requisite devices and reporting tools, there should still be a human on the other end of the line when patients and staff have questions.
Securing buy-in from your organization’s leadership team is another must-have as you make your final decision. Even if your team is aligned around a vendor, you will run into obstacles if you cannot convince decision-makers that the RPM program will support both the clinical and financial goals of the organization. Your vendor should play an integral role in helping you make the case, too.
Signing the Agreement
Even with everyone bought in, you’re not in the clear yet. There are a number of pitfalls to avoid in the contracting process. Keep the following in mind as you develop a statement of work with the vendor:
- Pricing. Depending on the type of monitoring, cost structures can vary. Explore if it makes more sense to pay an overall program fee or pay for the individual devices that are provided to patients. We’ve also seen RPM programs succeed with per-patient per-month (or per-year) costs.
- Customer Support. It’s important to get in writing that the vendor will provide support to your staff and patients. Be as specific as possible — if you need on-site training, a dedicated phone line, and monthly program reports via email, work those deliverables into the contract.
- Program Metrics. The final agreement should specify the metrics you defined prior to evaluating vendors. For example, you may want your program to demonstrate an increase in your patients’ baseline level of medication adherence. If your vendor can’t commit to the metrics you’ve outlined, it’s better to know that before you sign a multi-year contract.
Finally, do not finalize and sign a contract without involving your organization’s legal and compliance experts (or, if applicable, seeking outside counsel). By looping in the right stakeholders at this phase, you protect your organization and increase the program’s chances of success.