Remote patient monitoring (RPM) works by enabling healthcare providers to exchange vital health-related information with physically distant patients. Network-connected remote patient monitoring tools allow individuals to receive remote medical support to address a wide variety of health issues.
Remote patient monitoring solutions enable clinicians to exchange data with patients in real-time to provide enhanced care and improved outcomes. The convergence of mobile technologies, faster and more reliable networks, and dedicated remote patient monitoring software have made it possible to provide new levels of care outside of traditional healthcare facilities.
What is Remote Patient Monitoring?
Remote patient monitoring is the practice of using digital technologies to monitor patient health information away from traditional clinical settings like hospitals or clinics. Data is gathered and transmitted via a network to healthcare providers. Healthcare teams assess the collected information to make treatment recommendations or contact the patient if needed.
RPM specifically refers to telehealth solutions that directly connect patients with a physician or other healthcare professionals. This use of technology was gaining popularity in the healthcare field before the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic. Remote patient monitoring apps have helped the healthcare community handle the challenges of fighting the virus.
Remote Patient Monitoring vs. Telehealth
Many similar terms are used to describe the use of technology as it relates to the delivery of healthcare. It can become difficult to correctly categorize an experience involving the use of dedicated, healthcare-focused technology. A common mistake is made when differentiating between RPM and telehealth solutions.
Telehealth is the use of technology and electronic communication to improve any aspect of the healthcare system. This includes diverse activities like providing education to clinicians, streamlining the billing and reimbursement process, or developing self-service patient portals to disseminate healthcare information.
Remote patient monitoring is a specific form of telehealth and telemedicine that refers to the use of technology to facilitate interaction between patients and providers. It is incorrect and confusing to use RPM when referring to the wider range of telehealth activities.
The chart below provides a nice overview of the categories encompassed by the term telehealth. Remote patient monitoring is shown as a subset of telehealth and telemedicine.
How Does Remote Patient Monitoring Work?
An example of remote patient monitoring should provide further clarification of the term. The following outline describes the general characteristics of an RPM implementation.
- A healthcare provider identifies a patient’s condition that can be addressed with an RPM solution. Among the patient data that can be collected via remote patient monitoring devices in healthcare are blood sugar levels, heart rate, blood pressure, weight, and other vital signs.
- After determining that a patient can benefit from remote monitoring, the provider prescribes an RPM program. Data will begin to be captured after obtaining consent from the patient and implementing the RPM solution.
- A device is provided to the patient to collect their health data. This device is required to be connected to the Internet using either Bluetooth or cellular technology. A wide range of devices can be used for remote patient monitoring including blood pressure monitors, glucose meters, ECG equipment, and pulse oximeters. The devices rely on built-in sensors to gather and transmit the necessary information to healthcare providers.
- After setting up device connectivity, health data is collected and transmitted directly from the patient to their associated healthcare providers.
- The healthcare provider analyzes the data and determines what actions need to be taken to address the patient’s condition.
In some cases, a patient may have several RPM devices to address multiple conditions.
Benefits of Remote Patient Monitoring
The main reason for the increased popularity of remote patient monitoring solutions is that it provides substantial benefits to healthcare practitioners and patients. Let’s take a look at some of the advantages that come with the use of RPM solutions.
Benefits to healthcare providers
- • Improved productivity by a healthcare facility is promoted by more efficient workflows made possible by RPM. Multiple patients can be monitored simultaneously and providers can prioritize patients who need immediate care.
- • Greater patient satisfaction and engagement in their healthcare treatment plan is achieved. For instance, patients suffering from diabetes and being monitored with an RPM device know their physician will be alerted if they fail to take their prescribed medication. Increased patient participation has been shown to be a factor in improved outcomes for those battling chronic health issues.
- • Revenue streams can increase for a healthcare facility employing remote patient monitoring tools. Increased patient satisfaction will help attract new customers. Productivity gains and the ability to reduce no-show in-person appointments add directly to a healthcare organization’s bottom line. Medicare and other insurance plans can reimburse providers for time spent addressing patients through RPM solutions.
- • The ability to deliver healthcare to communities with limited access to traditional solutions is another big advantage of remote patient monitoring. RPM helps alleviate problems associated with patient location, lack of transportation, and a potential shortage of providers.
- • Patients have more influence over their healthcare through the ownership of vital data. They are obtaining and sharing detailed information regarding their condition and have a direct connection to their providers in the event of an emergency.
- • RPM solutions offer faster access to providers and healthcare services. Based on the data transmitted by an RPM device, a physician can determine an updated treatment plan is required long before a patient is visited physically.
- • Travel time and expense are reduced with RPM devices. Patients can eliminate time-consuming visits for monitoring conditions that can be addressed safely and effectively through remote monitoring.
Remote Patient Monitoring Devices
A wide range of devices can be used when implementing remote patient monitoring. The following selection of devices is just a sampling of the equipment being used to provide RPM solutions.
Blood pressure monitors
• Network-connected blood pressure cuffs work the same way as those in hospitals and doctor’s offices. They allow patients to send real-time data to their providers from the comfort of their homes. Daily monitoring can be more beneficial than a single point-in-time for uncovering underlying health issues related to elevated blood pressure levels.
• This non-invasive clip is usually attached to a patient’s finger or earlobe to determine the wearer’s blood oxygen level. This information is important for patients suffering from chronic conditions and is also used for COVID-19 screening.
Wearable activity trackers
• This type of RPM device can be used to monitor a wide array of vital signs and physical activity. Characteristics such as blood pressure, heart rate, and stress can be tracked with wearables. They can also alert healthcare providers if a patient falls so help can be sent promptly.
Heart rate monitors
• Providers can obtain information regarding a patient’s heart rate so they can make suggestions about changing exercise habits or medications. Portable mobile heart monitors enable clinicians to study a patient throughout the day to observe any anomalies that need to be addressed.
Intelligent pill dispensers
• Many older patients who are not being cared for in hospitals find it hard to maintain adherence to medication schedules. These RPM devices can prompt patients to take their medication at precisely the right time and in the correct dosage, eliminating any potential mistakes or oversights.
Electrocardiography (ECG) devices
• ECG devices can help detect serious conditions by recording electric impulses from a patient’s heart and transmitting them to clinicians in real-time. They can be handheld, wearable, or in a patch and are becoming standard in high-performance sports training.
The research conducted in the United States in April 2021 shows what digital health tools the physicians had recommended to their patients.
Remote Patient Monitoring Applications
Following are some of the remote patient monitoring trends and the ways RPM is being used in today’s healthcare system. As you can see, they are concentrated on the chronic care issues that dominate the healthcare landscape.
- • Diabetes management – Both periodic and continuous glucose monitoring are being used to improve the management of diabetes. These devices can detect high or low blood sugar levels as well as help with medication management and tracking changes due to diet and exercise.
- • Weight measurement – Obesity is a treatable but significant health problem in America. Ongoing remote monitoring offers clinicians data that can be used to formulate plans to help patients stabilize and lose weight. Rapid weight gain is also an issue for patients experiencing congestive heart failure and can indicate that urgent care is required.
- • Treating hypertension – Blood pressure monitoring provides physicians with information that can help them advise patients concerning lifestyle or medication changes. This can help address the heart disease and strokes associated with hypertension without requiring regular visits to a healthcare facility.
- • Asthma control – Asthma is an incurable but treatable disease that can be better controlled with the use of remote patient monitoring tools. Electronic respiratory monitors are increasingly being used to treat asthma patients and have been found to reduce the need for rescue medications.
RPM market trends & statistics
The market for RPM devices and software solutions will continue to grow at a rapid pace in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Following are some of the areas that can expect investment from the top remote patient monitoring companies.
- • Internet of Medical Things (IoMT) – Companies are investing in IoMT devices to address many aspects of the healthcare system including remote patient monitoring. The smart devices that make up the IoMT enhance the capabilities of remote monitoring and enable them to immediately provide critical care.
- • Chronic care – The emphasis on RPM solutions focused on chronic care management will continue to dominate the market. Complex diseases like hypertension, diabetes, and heart disease lend themselves to remote monitoring devices and applications. Treating these diseases is a huge financial burden on the healthcare system that can be reduced with viable RPM tools.
- • Post-discharge recovery – RPM enables healthcare providers to evaluate patients recently discharged from the hospital to ensure they remain in stable condition. Practitioners can intervene if necessary to proactively prevent problems while the patient recovers at home.
The market is wide open for device manufacturers and software developers to extend the functionality and capabilities of remote patient monitoring. It is making positive changes in the way the world receives healthcare and will continue to do so going forward.