The future of remote patient monitoring
It’s no secret that the medical field has gone through an unprecedented amount of change over the last couple of years. One result of that change is the explosion of remote patient monitoring technology. This market is growing rapidly and is expected to reach US$85.031 billion by the end of 2026, increasing from US$20.027 billion in 2019.
Of course, the pandemic was a major catalyst for healthcare from the safety of the home, and while it might have sped up the implementation of the technology, it isn’t the reason remote patient monitoring is poised for massive growth. That has more to do with the increasing geriatric population and the corresponding increase in chronic illnesses.
The question is, how are device companies, hospitals, and care providers going to evolve to meet the increased remote patient monitoring demands? Let’s take a look at this growing industry and explore the impressive implementation happening as well as future hurdles.
Recommended reading: Applications of IoT for healthcare
How remote patient monitoring improves healthcare
Remote patient monitoring isn’t just a new medical buzzword, it’s a method of providing medical care, with the help of IoT technology, to those who need it most — and it’s saving countless lives in the process. So, just how is it accomplishing such impressive medical feats?
No one likes going to the doctor. It often requires taking time off work, being exposed to germs, and is generally uncomfortable. Enter telehealth. Perfect for quick check-ups with the doctor, questions about medication, or getting those antibiotics for that sinus infection. It has provided people with a safe way to receive care, while eliminating the risk of catching a virus from the waiting room. Because of this, people are more likely to make a doctor’s appointment and follow through on attending.
And it doesn’t end with telehealth. For decades care providers have been trying to solve the lack of patient adherence to medication and treatment plans. Remote patient monitoring technology is becoming an effective tool to improve this adherence. Certain remote patient monitoring platforms can provide patients with medication reminders, educational medication information right at their fingertips, and medication transparency for caregivers.
Another way remote patient monitoring improves compliance is by taking the onus of reporting symptoms off of the patients’ shoulders. If a patient has a device such as a wearable heart monitor or an implanted pacemaker that sends data directly to their care team when there are unusual readings, care providers can reach out proactively and not rely on the patient to disclose symptoms.
Reduction in readmission
Healthcare readmissions are costly, a burden on the healthcare system, and have negative consequences for patient health. According to the Agency of Healthcare Research and Quality, the readmission rate is around 14%. Remote patient monitoring technology is working to lower that percentage.
The beauty of remote patient monitoring is that, by nature, it’s preventative. Often finding trends in health data or detecting anomalies before the patient ever realizes something is wrong. This is especially useful for people who have chronic illnesses like heart failure, which has high rates of hospital stays and readmissions. In the US, nearly 6 million adults currently have heart failure, which is expected to increase 40% by 2035. With the help of wearable or implantable devices that measure blood pressure, heart rate, weight, and ECG — and then send data to the cardiac patients' care team — telemonitoring can reduce hospitalizations by up to 64%.
And it isn’t just cardiac patients. One study of COVID19 patients found that those who were enrolled in a remote patient monitoring program were significantly less likely to be readmitted to the hospital. These reductions in hospitalizations and readmissions mean the care for the chronically ill is less costly and more comfortable for the patient.
Increased patient satisfaction
It seems like a no-brainer that patients would appreciate remote patient monitoring. While this level of satisfaction may differ depending on how a hospital implements telemedicine or whether a device is functioning correctly, many studies have shown that patients are satisfied with their care.
For example, Brooklyn Methodist Hospital implemented an RPM program that utilized pulse oximeters post-discharge and relied on a nurse to monitor the patients remotely. 91% of these patients were happy with their care and would recommend it to others.
Decrease in mortality
Remote patient monitoring technology is saving lives. Studies have consistently found that noninvasive telemonitoring is associated with a reduction in patient mortality. When the patient data indicates a dangerous situation — such as high blood glucose levels or elevated blood pressure readings — care teams can react in real-time and get the patient life saving treatment.
Patient engagement increases when using remote patient monitoring technology for many reasons.
· Convenience and ease of use
· More oversight and follow-up from the care team in response to data
· Motivation as a result of seeing progress towards health goals
· Fewer barriers for patients located in rural areas or those without access to transportation
· Better communication between the provider and patient
What are the challenges of implementing remote patient monitoring?
Clearly, there is a case for remote patient monitoring, but the question is, what is standing in the way of implementing this technology widely?
One of the biggest pivots that hospitals and care providers need to make for remote patient monitoring to be truly successful is a shift from the traditional fee-for-service based care to value-based care. Fee-for-service care encourages filling up hospitals, and pays providers based on the number of procedures performed or office visits. Conversely, value-based care emphasizes quality care, and pays providers based on outcomes. While this shift will likely cost more money upfront, it will ultimately decrease the burden on understaffed hospitals and reduce medical costs. Right now is an inflection point for healthcare providers. If they want to remain competitive, they will have to shift their model of care.
Of course, whenever there is a major shift in operations, there will be logistical challenges. For example, if data is streaming in from a wearable health device 24/7, but a primary care nurse only works from 9 am-5 pm, who will follow up with the patient if something unusual happens in the middle of the night? While technology — especially IoT devices — can be a powerful tool, they are useful if the data is able to be acted on. In the medical field it’s critical that someone is there to interpret the data, and provide follow-up care. For this reason, many hospitals and other care providers will have to rethink their workflow and job functions.
Additionally, RPMs will need to integrate with the electronic health record (EHR). This will allow providers to integrate RPM data with treatment programs and diagnoses in the medical record, ultimately improving coordination and decreasing negative health outcomes.
Misuse of data
As with any data analysis, it is only as helpful as it is accurate. While remote patient monitoring devices go through extensive quality control, there is always a risk that the data may be incorrect, perhaps simply because of patient error. Incorrect data could also result from someone else besides the patient wearing the device (like a child). Therefore, ensuring that the data is accurate is critical to providing the best level of care for the patient.
In many ways, remote patient monitoring is still in its infancy, and because of that, there is a lot to figure out in terms of healthcare laws and policies. Healthcare legislation is struggling to keep up with the rapidly growing industry. Many providers find that a barrier to implementation is figuring out best practices for reimbursement. To learn more about your state's remote patient monitoring, check out this interactive map created by the Center for Connected Health Policy.
How can cellular connectivity help RPM companies?
Increasing the use of remote patient monitoring devices means that they need to be easy for patients to use. And since many of the patients who rely on these devices are elderly, cellular connectivity is the best way to ensure that the devices work right out of the box without the need for end-user set up.
Additionally, remote patient monitoring requires stringent security to protect patient data. A secure cellular network can ensure data integrity and privacy. Remote patient monitoring companies will want to choose a connectivity option that provides three layers of firewalls for optimal security.
And most important of all is the connection itself. Choosing cellular connectivity means that patients won’t lose important data if they are no longer connected to WIFI.
Recommended reading: Wearable healthcare technology: 12 incredible IoT applications
Hologram Connectivity for remote patient monitoring devices
With Hologram’s multi-carrier, global network, important medical devices will never experience downtime. If there’s a weak signal — or even a downed tower — patients and providers won’t notice because our agnostic carrier switching will automatically connect the device to the strongest available signal.
And you never have to worry about device security. From device isolation to three layers of firewalls, Hologram places a high value on transparency, trust, and security. Learn more about our IoT SIM cards for remote patient monitoring.