Technology has transformed nearly every aspect of our lives, from how we communicate to how we shop and bank.
Now, digital health innovations like remote patient monitoring (RPM) are changing how healthcare is delivered. By enabling providers to monitor patients outside of conventional clinical settings, RPM improves access to care, empowers patients, and reduces costs.
This blog post explores how RPM enhances patient health across a variety of use cases and care settings.
What is Remote Patient Monitoring?
Remote patient monitoring refers to the use of digital technologies to collect health data from patients outside of traditional clinical settings like hospitals or doctor’s offices. RPM involves having patients use connected devices and tools in their homes to record vital signs or other health metrics and transmit that data securely to their healthcare providers to track.
RPM technologies can range from basic devices like blood pressure cuffs and scales to more advanced wearable sensors. The data and alerts generated from RPM devices are transmitted to care teams via secure electronic platforms where it can be reviewed for signs of improvement or deterioration. Providers can then intervene early before conditions worsen.
Benefits of Remote Patient Monitoring
When incorporated thoughtfully, RPM delivers profound benefits for both patients and healthcare systems. Studies show RPM can:
- Improve outcomes for chronic conditions like diabetes, heart failure, COPD and hypertension
- Reduce hospital readmissions
- Lower costs by preventing complications and unnecessary healthcare utilization
- Identify health issues sooner for earlier interventions
- Increase patient satisfaction and participation in their care
- Expand access to care for rural or isolated populations
For providers, RPM provides a continuous flow of patient data for better care management and coordination. And patients enjoy greater flexibility and independence in their health management.
How RPM Improves Chronic Disease Management
One major benefit of RPM is better ongoing management of chronic illnesses like diabetes, COPD, hypertension, and heart disease. Chronic diseases account for the largest share of death and disability in the U.S. They also represent 90% of the nation’s annual healthcare expenditure.
RPM enables providers to track vital signs and symptoms that may signal deteriorating health and intervene quickly before conditions worsen. For example, patients with heart failure can be monitored for sudden increases in weight that may indicate fluid retention. Or blood sugar levels can be tracked in diabetics to adjust medications and prevent complications.
Studies show RPM programs for chronic disease reduce hospital admissions by over 20% on average. By catching health declines early, complications can be averted leading to significant healthcare savings.
Reducing Hospital Readmissions with RPM
Up to 25% of Medicare patients are readmitted to the hospital within 30 days of discharge. Many of these readmissions are preventable with better transitional care. RPM can reduce rehospitalizations through continuous monitoring of recently discharged patients.
Providers can accurately track daily biometric data as well as monitor for signs of deterioration. Patient reported symptoms or out-of-range vitals automatically trigger timely interventions like medication adjustments or early follow-up care.
One analysis found readmission rates were reduced by over 50% across multiple studies on RPM for discharged patients. Preventing avoidable hospitalizations improves outcomes and cuts costs.
RPM Increases Patient Engagement
A key feature of RPM is enhanced patient and caregiver involvement in managing health. Research indicates engaged, activated patients have better health outcomes and lower costs.
RPM technologies allow patients to easily track health metrics at home and understand the impact of diet, exercise, and medication adherence on those biomarkers. Patient portals and apps provide access to monitor progress over time. This increased involvement empowers patients and provides motivation to stick to care plans.
Studies also show RPM improves patient satisfaction and experience with care. Convenience and 24/7 access gives patients greater freedom and control over their health.
Improving Access to Care with RPM
The growth of RPM expands access to care delivery in several important ways. First, remote monitoring enables care for isolated or rural patients who live far from hospitals and doctor’s offices. Elderly and disabled populations can access care from home more easily as well.
RPM also provides care continuity for patients who may lack regular primary care. Uninsured or underserved groups can be monitored virtually at lower costs while reducing more expensive emergency and hospital care.
Telehealth and data transmission capabilities allow clinicians to monitor and engage patients anywhere. This helps remove barriers to care like transportation and mobility issues.
RPM Technologies and Devices
Various devices and technologies enable remote patient monitoring. Basic RPM tools include blood pressure cuffs, glucose meters, pulse oximeters, and other devices patients can use at home to collect health data. Recently discharged patients may be sent home with scales to monitor fluid retention.
Wearable devices like smartwatches and fitness trackers now have medical grade capabilities for RPM. Advances in sensors, software, and artificial intelligence drive steady improvements in the market.
All data integrates seamlessly into provider platforms and electronic health records through wireless connectivity and Bluetooth. This allows care teams to access a complete patient view for better coordination and interventions.
Use Cases and Applications for RPM
RPM has broad applicability across most health conditions and care settings. Some leading use cases include:
Chronic Care Management
As discussed above, RPM is exceptionally valuable for managing ongoing chronic illness like diabetes and hypertension that require regular biometrics. Patients are also monitored for signs of decline that require early intervention.
Monitoring patients when they leave the hospital reduces readmissions, improves outcomes, and ensures continued access to care. Tracking weight, blood pressure, oxygen levels and other vitals identifies patients that need additional clinical support.
RPM wearables, surveys, and virtual visits support patients with depression, addiction, and other behavioral health needs through proactive engagement and tracking outside the clinic.
Maternal and Child Health
Pregnant mothers and high-risk newborns benefit from RPM through the most vulnerable periods from post-delivery to early infancy when health can deteriorate rapidly.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, RPM helped expand hospital capacity by allowing patients to finish recovery safely at home under monitoring rather than occupy scarce beds.
Opportunities and Challenges with Remote Patient Monitoring
While the benefits of RPM are clear, there remain barriers to overcome for widespread adoption and success.
Access and affordability
While dropping, costs for RPM devices and technologies remain high for many patients. Lack of reimbursement also limits access. Policies like expanding coverage for RPM under Medicare would drive increased adoption.
Integration with clinical workflows
To avoid creating more fragmented care, providers must thoughtfully integrate RPM data within existing health records systems and care processes. Open access to patient data is critical.
Robust measures must be in place to ensure privacy and security of patient data. Building patient trust is essential.
Patients must use devices consistently and correctly for RPM accuracy. Strategies like patient education and engagement are needed to drive compliance.
While promising, RPM technologies are still emerging and face issues with reliability, accuracy, and usability. Continued innovation and improvement is important to realize RPM’s full potential.
The Future of Remote Patient Monitoring
While RPM is gaining traction, plenty of room remains for continued adoption and growth. Several developments will shape RPM’s future:
- Advancing wearables and sensors will provide richer, clinical grade data for providers and patients. Voice enabled devices may allow conversational, real-time monitoring.
- Integrating artificial intelligence and analytics into RPM data will drive more personalized, predictive recommendations and interventions.
- 5G networks and improved IT systems will enable faster and higher bandwidth data transmission to enrich the care experience.
- Use of RPM is expected to expand across the care continuum as evidence and acceptance increases. New use cases in mental health, oncology, pediatrics and other areas will emerge.
- Consumerization of healthcare and patient hunger for convenience will fuel demand for virtual health tools like RPM that enable anywhere, anytime care.
Getting Started with Remote Patient Monitoring
For healthcare software development services providers and organizations considering an RPM program, here are a few recommendations:
- Start with a defined patient population, such as patients with heart failure or diabetes, to pilot RPM and demonstrate ROI.
- Select RPM technology partners carefully based on integration capabilities, data security, analytics, and flexibility to scale programs.
- Develop protocols and care pathways to respond to RPM alerts and data that identify patient declines or needs for intervention.
- Provide clear patient education and support to drive engagement and compliance with any prescribed RPM protocols.
- Track clinical, financial, and patient experience metrics pre- and post-RPM implementation to monitor impact and opportunities for improvement.
RPM adoption requires change management for both providers and patients. But the potential to enhance outcomes and save lives while reducing costs makes it a compelling model for the future of healthcare delivery.