Building trust in new technology for remote patient care requires powerful device infrastructure

COVID-19 transformed telemedicine from an optional offering to a critical service. And though the mechanisms through which providers connected with patients changed, patient safety and continuity of care remain critical. 

Leveraging intelligent devices to provide essential services such as remote patient monitoring, in-home rehabilitation and in-room care is the current and future state of healthcare. But device experiences, especially with a patient population, need to be human-centered. So how do you build trust with patients when introducing new technology? It starts with infrastructure. 

Updates are key for device security

Even with the explosion of Android devices entering the healthcare market, securing devices — and the sensitive information they carry — remains a challenge. For starters, keeping a device’s security up to standards requires sending new security patches as they’re made available. However, IT managers have long felt the pain associated with sending updates to devices — it’s too common to push an update and break a device in the field due to a lack of adequate tooling. When this scenario happens in business, it’s frustrating, but when it happens in healthcare, the repercussions can be detrimental. 

The solution for confidently sending security patches (along with all other updates) is releasing them in a DevOps manner with CI/CD pipelines. Pipelines allow you to roll out updates in stages so that you can start with a test device, then a small percentage of your fleet, and then a larger group. And just as importantly, you can also roll back updates if the devices don’t behave as you’d expected. 

Don’t rely on patients for IT support

Relying on your end-user to provide technical device support will always be a poor customer experience. And with a sick or aging patient population, it can mean providing sub-optimal care as they neither want nor may be able to troubleshoot device issues. For this reason, it’s essential to build automated troubleshooting into your device’s infrastructure. 

To understand how this is applied, let’s look at Esper’s client Spire Health. Spire provides remote patient monitoring for chronic respiratory disease patients through a small, wearable device. These trackers are connected to mobile phones via Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) and send status alerts to providers much more efficiently than traditional monitoring. It’s essential that these devices stay online, so Spire built in automatic troubleshooting. For example if a device goes offline, an automatic workflow is triggered without any need for human interference. 

Another form of automation benefiting both patients and providers is drift detection. Rather than manually monitoring each device to ensure functionality, device management software that provides drift detections alerts the administrator when a device isn’t in compliance with connectivity and or configuration settings. The results are a safer, compliant patient experience and providers can focus on applying their skills where needed most instead of trying to troubleshoot.

Improve patient experience with devices that work on boot

Just as you can’t expect patients to troubleshoot a device, they also can’t be expected to set devices up in-home. This sounds obvious, but how updates are sent can create an awkward setup process if the device isn’t already configured with the latest version.

Esper helped ROMtech overcome this very challenge. ROMtech provides advanced in-home orthopedic rehabilitation by providing in-home connected cycling equipment. Device provisioning occurs months before the equipment is shipped to the patient, which could result in outdated application versions on devices. Rather than asking the patient to update the device, the way they would need to with their smartphone, but with technology they’re not familiar with, ROMtech worked with Esper to find a different solution. With seamless — or touchless — provisioning, Esper detects when a new device comes online and the application version is updated when the device boots up. So patients can focus on their recovery without acting as their own IT support or reaching out for assistance.

Creating a seamless experience is a critical element of building trust with patients when introducing a new technology. Don’t ask your patients to become experts in the devices they’re using. Instead, build an infrastructure that supports safely and simply rolling out updates, automating workflow troubleshooting and devices that just work the way they’re supposed to as soon as they turn on.

By Percy