Why is Patient Remote Monitoring?
Remote patient monitoring (RPM) emerged as a response to the increasing need for more efficient and accessible healthcare delivery. With advancements in technology, it became possible for patients to use devices to monitor their health at home and remotely transmit data to healthcare providers for analysis.
Remote patient monitoring is the use of telehealth technology for patients to collect their vital signs, symptoms, and other health data outside of traditional healthcare settings and regularly transmit the same to their healthcare provider for monitoring, assessment and recommendations. This allows frequent monitoring, sometimes even continuous monitoring and management of chronic conditions, reducing the need for in-person visits and improving patient outcomes.
In contrast, traditional healthcare monitoring typically requires the patient to be physically present at a healthcare facility or clinic and typically occurs at scheduled appointments, which may be weeks or months apart. In traditional healthcare monitoring, healthcare providers collect data during appointments or through lab tests. With remote patient monitoring, devices such as wearable sensors, mobile apps, and telehealth platforms are used to collect data on the patient's health status.
Remote patient monitoring technologies can include wearable devices, mobile apps, sensors, and other digital tools. These devices can monitor various health metrics, such as blood pressure, heart rate, blood glucose levels, oxygen saturation, and more. This allows healthcare providers to track patient health and identify potential problems before they become more serious.
How is Telehealth Different from RPM?
While Telehealth is an umbrella term for care provided by a medical provider that occurs without an office visit, RPM is a subset of telehealth that focuses specifically on the monitoring of patients' health data.
There are various modalities of providing telehealth based care , including:
- Live video communications
- Store-and-Forward (transmitting videos and digital images through secure electronic communication systems)
- Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM)
- Mobile Health (mHealth) (smartphone apps that facilitate health and well-being)
To summarize, while telehealth covers a wider range of healthcare services delivered remotely, RPM is one of the key components of telehealth.
Benefits of Remote Patient Monitoring
Although some patients will require in-person testing, diagnostics, and monitoring, remote patient monitoring can benefit a large pool of patients. For most patients, using remote patient monitoring depends on their physical condition, ability to use the internet, and personal preference. There are still many ways that remote patient monitoring can benefit those with chronic illnesses or other health problems, including:
Chronic Care Management
It enables ongoing care for patients with chronic conditions, avoiding preventable hospitalizations. The cost of treating chronic health conditions is on the rise, and although prevention is preferred, many Americans are already living their lives with chronic illnesses. The implementation of RPM has expanded the access to care and the ability to receive care quickly and avoid a crisis. There are benefits in RPM that established and new practices can both benefit from.
Improved Patient Outcomes
With remote patient monitoring, healthcare providers can detect changes in a patient's health status in real-time, leading to earlier interventions and better patient outcomes. It can also help patients to better manage their own health by providing them with more information about their health status and enabling them to make more informed decisions about their care.
By reducing hospital admissions, re-admissions, and emergency room visits, remote patient monitoring can help to lower healthcare costs. By allowing healthcare providers to monitor patients remotely, they can identify potential issues early on and intervene before they become more serious and require more costly interventions.
Healthcare providers can monitor multiple patients at once, freeing up time to focus on more complex cases and improve healthcare delivery. This can free up time for healthcare providers to focus on more complex cases, while still providing quality care to their patients.
Enhanced Patient Experience
Patients can receive care from the comfort of their own home and communicate with their healthcare providers in real-time, leading to a more convenient and satisfying patient experience. As a result, it helps to reduce anxiety and increase patient satisfaction.
Improved Population Health
Remote patient monitoring can help to improve population health by enabling healthcare providers to monitor patients with chronic conditions more closely, and by providing more targeted interventions to patients who are at high risk of complications. By improving the health of individual patients, healthcare providers can also improve the health of entire populations.
Better Data Collection and Analysis
Providers get access to real-time data on a patient's health status, which can provide a more complete picture of the patient's health. This data can be analyzed over time to identify trends, patterns, and potential risk factors, which can inform treatment decisions and care planning. By having access to more comprehensive and accurate data, healthcare providers can make more informed decisions and provide more personalized care to their patients.
In many instances, with the proper training on the RPM, home patient monitoring can be successful. For patients who can take their blood pressure, monitor their blood sugar levels and oxygen saturation levels, and other diagnostics, the option of RPM is a valuable solution that keeps them in their homes where they are more comfortable.
Pros and Cons of Remote Patient Monitoring
While Remote Patient Monitoring is right for some patients, it may not be right for others and this must be determined before implementing them. That is why patients and their providers must look at each pro and con and determine if using an remote monitoring solution for a patient is in their best interest.
- Anticipating a wider range of benefits by adopting RPM tools
- Patients enjoy quick access to healthcare services, especially those they need the most. RPM also allows care providers to pull up historical data to see how the patient is (or has been) doing.
- More data is compiled than would be possible in a clinical setting. Through the process of daily monitoring, physicians can be alerted of a potential health problem early.
- RPM can help with patient compliance rates when providing treatment plans. Patients tend to take their conditions more seriously when they know that the physician is receiving regular updates on their progress.
- Through the data collected, anomalies in a patient's health can be isolated and addressed before their next appointment. In traditional scenarios (without RPM), a patient may end up in the emergency room or worse if the anomaly is not caught in time.
- There are some healthcare professionals that feel implementing RPM is too expensive for set up, let alone the requirement for their patients to sign up for use.
- There is a common misconception that using RPM and setting them up and deploying them is too difficult; however, this is not the case as most of these tools are ready to go out of the box.
How do Remote Patient Monitoring Solutions address Patient Privacy Concerns?
Patient privacy concerns are a critical issue in remote patient monitoring (RPM), as RPM systems collect and transmit sensitive health information. Patients may be worried about their personal data being accessed or shared without their permission, or about the potential consequences of data breaches or other security incidents.
To address these concerns, RPM systems must have robust privacy and security measures in place. Some of the key ways in which RPM systems protect patient privacy and maintain data security include:
Encryption: RPM systems should use encryption technologies to protect patient data as it is transmitted over the internet or other networks.
Authentication and Access Control: RPM systems should use strong authentication methods to ensure that only authorized users can access patient data. Access to patient data should also be strictly controlled, with different levels of access granted based on the user's role.
Data Minimization: RPM systems should only collect and transmit data that is necessary for patient care, and should avoid collecting sensitive information that is not relevant to the patient's condition.
Data Retention and Deletion: RPM systems should have policies in place for retaining and deleting patient data, ensuring that data is not kept longer than necessary and is securely destroyed when no longer needed.
Consent and Transparency: Patients should be fully informed about the data that is being collected, how it will be used, and who will have access to it. Patients should also have the ability to give informed consent for their data to be collected and shared.
Compliance with Regulations: RPM systems should comply with relevant regulations and standards, such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) in the United States, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in the European Union, and other local privacy and data protection laws.
Remote Patient Monitoring Solutions and Devices
Six of top remote patient monitoring companies – Dexcom, Honeywell Life Sciences, Medtronic, Philips Healthcare, ResMed, and Senseonics – are primarily responsible for the manufacturing and distribution of five popular remote patient monitoring services on the market today. Each of these devices offers patients the freedom to take their vitals at home while transmitting them effortlessly to their healthcare professional.
The Top 5 Remote Patient Monitoring Devices on the Market
Although there are many devices on the market that allow patients to remain home while being monitored by medical professionals, five of the most common remote patient monitoring devices in healthcare commonly seen being implemented in the course of treatment for patients with both acute and chronic illnesses can be found below. These devices provide specific insight into the patient's health using it while collecting data and transmitting it periodically (sometimes daily) to the physician who ordered the RPM.
Blood Pressure Cuff
A blood pressure cuff is used to calculate heart rate and blood flow by measuring the changes in a patient's artery motion. These cuffs are often equipped with Bluetooth capability, allowing the data to be transmitted to the physician for review in real-time. These devices can assist in managing multiple conditions, including but not limited to hypertension, diabetes, CHF, and kidney dysfunction.
Blood Glucose Meter (Glucometer)
A lot can be learned about a patient from a small drop of blood placed on a test strip. In most cases, patients who have diabetes (type 1 and type 2) will check their blood sugar levels daily (sometimes multiple times a day) using a glucometer. The use of a glucometer that regularly transmits patient glucose levels can help healthcare professionals determine possible factors influencing their patient's blood sugar levels.
A pulse oximeter is a small device placed periodically on the patient's finger and monitors blood oxygen levels – how much oxygen is circulating among the red blood cells. The device also monitors heart rate. The most frequent use of the pulse oximeter is seen for patients with chronic heart or lung problems, like COPD, CHF, or even the monitoring of COVID-19.
One of the most popular devices on the market today are activity trackers – we have all seen the FitBit and other trackers made in their likeness; however, technology has changed enough that some of these are as small as a patch worn for a specific amount of time to monitor a patient. Activity trackers are used for monitoring steps, heart rate, fall risk, sleep habits, and more. All of this data is then transmitted and can help develop a more successful treatment plan.
Bluetooth scales allow patients to monitor their weight while transmitting the information to their healthcare provider, often to ensure that symptoms are not worsening. In the case of CHF patients, fluctuation in weight can be caused by water retention, which is an indicator of worsening symptoms. Patients who are obese may use the same types of scales with a BMI calculator, which can help determine and identify trends in behavior.
How to select an Remote Patient Monitoring Solution?
When a provider suggests a patient use an RPM solution, the decision is not made lightly. In fact, they probably weighed out a series of pros and cons to determine if their patient is the best candidate for the device. Many times insurance will require physicians to answer the question “why use remote patient monitoring?”
For most providers, they must consider the following:
- Does the device facilitate the data and frequency required to monitor the patient safely? Some patients require more frequent monitoring than others, so finding the solution that facilitates this is of high
- Is the information coming from the RPM reliable? Not all of these devices are FDA-approved or regulated (like activity monitors), which means that the data may not be as reliable as a physician hopes.
These are a few of the factors that physicians will look at, in addition to the acute or chronic illness that the patient has. Some illnesses require more monitoring than others, and some patients cannot cope with the change of using such technology. The physician and the patient have to make the decision that is best for the patient's overall health.
RPM Market Trends – Is RPM the Future?
Insider Intelligence estimated that 70.6 patients in the United States (26.2% of the population) will implement RPM tools in their healthcare by 2025. With the threat of readmission penalties, many healthcare providers are implementing RPM solutions after hospital releases to monitor patients after leaving the facility. The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center reduced their risk of re-admissions by 76% and increased patient satisfaction scores to over 90% by providing tablet and RPM equipment to patients being released.
There is a high likelihood that RPM solutions will only increase among the population, alongside the number of telehealth appointments across the country in the coming years. With the ability to take a passive approach to one's healthcare, implementing RPM solutions for acute and chronically ill patients makes monitoring their changes simpler instead of waiting a month before their next appointment. With lower instances of ER visits and readmissions, healthcare providers are saving money across the board by implementing a solution that allows monitoring vitals and symptoms at home.