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Unlocking Healthcare Access: The Role of RPM in Rural Communities

Updated: May 6

Rural communities often face a multitude of challenges when trying to gain access to healthcare. RPM and virtual care programs are bridging the gap in access to care, and changing the way organizations approach healthcare delivery in rural areas.

Impilo webinar series features FQHC using rpm

This month, Impilo sat down with Ko'olauloa Health Center to discuss how they are implementing a medical device program to improve patient care. If you missed the webinar session, watch the recording or check out a brief recap:


Ko'olauloa's Blood Pressure Cuff Program

In our recent Impilo webinar, Allison, a physician assistant (PA) from a rural Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) in Hawaii, shared insights into their innovative remote patient monitoring (RPM) program. The clinic's location, about 45 minutes from the closest specialty hospital, poses unique challenges.

"We are designated as a health profession shortage area for several different things. So, not a lot of resources within our community."

Despite these challenges, the clinic has implemented a comprehensive approach to healthcare delivery. They focus on optimizing primary care services, leveraging specialists who visit the clinic, and providing on-site services like dental and pharmacy. Additionally, the clinic addresses transportation barriers by coordinating with insurance providers for coverage and providing a clinic van for patient transportation. Originally funded through a grant, a key component of their program is the distribution of blood pressure cuffs to patients. The practice decided to begin to distribute these cuffs to increase healthcare delivery in their community. Initially, upon launching the program they faced issues with patient engagement and data collection.

"We've been trying to change that program to make it more likely to get data... So, supporting patients beyond just checking their blood pressure, talking about nutrition, smoking, and physical activity."

Integrating Virtual Care in Rural Communities and FQHCs

Ko'olauloa Health Center's efforts have yielded positive results, with patients showing improved blood pressure control and, in some cases, reducing or eliminating medications. Allison highlighted, "Helping them find a reason just beyond ourselves... I had a patient say their why was to be around for their seven grandkids and there's an eighth one on the way." One of the challenges they faced was integrating the program into their electronic health record (EHR). However, with a recent EHR update, the practice now has a standardized protocol for monitoring patients with uncontrolled blood pressure, streamlining their data collection process.


RPM Is Shaping The Future Of Healthcare

Looking ahead, the clinic is exploring the use of cellular cuffs to improve data collection and reduce barriers for patients. Allison emphasized, "We're really excited to try and move in the direction of cellular cuffs... to make a positive impact on our community."

Allison's insights demonstrate the impact of RPM programs in rural healthcare. By understanding their community's needs, leveraging technology, and focusing on patient engagement, clinics can enhance healthcare access and outcomes for underserved populations.


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