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emerging technology

What you need to know about remote patient monitoring devices

Gibson Toombs
April 5th, 2021
8 MINUTE READ

Heart disease, cancer, diabetes, kidney disease, and Alzheimer’s are among the leading causes of death in the US. With the help of remote patient monitoring (RPM) systems, healthcare providers can treat these conditions more effectively. From heart rate monitors, to intelligent medication dispensers, to medical alert systems, RPM devices enable stronger communication and insight between patients and providers. 

By enhancing care both inside and outside of healthcare facilities, physicians, dentists, psychiatrists, and other healthcare professionals can create better outcomes for their patients. For this reason, many healthcare organizations are adopting RPM technology. In fact, 88% of providers have already implemented—or are in the process of implementing—RPM devices for their healthcare practice. 

So if you’re interested in investing in RPM technology and want to learn more about it, from how it works to its various applications in the healthcare industry, keep reading!

What exactly is remote patient monitoring?

Rooted in the Internet of Medical Things (IoMT), RPM devices are designed to help healthcare providers track, report, and analyze patient conditions regardless of their geographical location. In most cases, this involves a personal Bluetooth-enabled medical device, a mobile application, a cloud environment to store data, and organization-side software. 

The device captures important patient data, such as glucose levels or blood pressure, which is then transmitted to providers who can use that information to make informed decisions, as well as provide specific medical advice via telehealth services and bring the patient in for further analysis if necessary. There is a wide range of RPM devices, with some of the most common including: 

  • Blood pressure monitors
  • Oximeters
  • Audiometers
  • Breathing frequency monitors
  • Electronic stethoscopes

While there are many different ways healthcare organizations can leverage RPM devices, they are typically implemented to elevate care for specific patient categories. Here are some of the most common types of patients benefiting from RPM today: 

  • Post-operative patients
  • Patients with chronic diseases such as asthma, obesity, diabetes, and hypertension
  • Senior patients
  • Patients in rural areas with limited access to healthcare facilities

For RPM solutions to be effective, providers must successfully integrate them into their current technological infrastructure, as to avoid data silos. This may include electronic health record (EHR) software, hospital management tools, medical database platforms, and so on. 

In order to prevent legal fines and the exposure of private information, healthcare organizations must also ensure that their deployment of RPM devices doesn’t violate any industry regulations, namely the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). By partnering with a team of health-tech-savvy developers, your practice can guarantee both effective RPM technology integration and industry compliance. 

Benefits of remote patient monitoring (RPM) for patients and providers

With the ability to collect and analyze patient data outside of healthcare facilities, providers can expand the scope of their practice, improve patient satisfaction, save time and resources, and increase revenue. Here’s a closer look at the main benefits of employing RPM devices: 

Greater transparency between patients and providers

RPM devices help providers develop more effective care plans by supplying increased knowledge around certain conditions and treatments. For example, if the RPM data shows that a patient’s medication is not working as expected, the doctor can write a new prescription on the spot, or connect with the patient to further investigate the matter—without having to wait for the next in-person consultation. 

Being able to act on information in real-time like this leads to better care and a stronger doctor-patient relationship. Plus, with access to their own health data via mobile apps, RPM devices provide patients with the tools necessary to take more control over their remote care plans. According to a 2019 survey, 52% of consumers are willing to use an RPM device if recommended by a physician. 

Decreased hospital length of stay and readmission rates

RPM devices enable patients to remain engaged with their care while at home, so they don’t have to constantly go back and forth between healthcare facilities. For hospitals and ERs, this means more open beds for patients with emergency issues and severe conditions. 

By lowering readmission rates, facilities can not only provide more attentive in-person care to their patients, but they can also avoid legal penalties. Because of the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) efforts to lower costs and improve quality of care, hospitals must pay fines if they exceed a certain readmission rate. And Recent studies show that RPM devices can reduce a healthcare facility’s readmissions by 38%. 

Reduced costs and stress for patients

By engaging with care in the comfort of their own home as opposed to a healthcare facility, patients may experience less stress, which can play a huge role in their recovery. Research shows that stress worsens health conditions like Alzheimer’s, heart disease, diabetes, and asthma. And reducing a patient’s stress can be as easy as giving them the ability to remain close to their family, sleep in their bed at night, cook meals in their kitchen, play with their dog, etc. 

Spending more time at home also means lower cost of care, which is another factor that contributes to patient stress. When providers use RPM devices, they are able to cut the cost of care for their patients by 17%—and improve patient satisfaction by 25%.

Remote patient monitoring use cases

As healthcare technology advances, there is an increasing number of use cases for RPM devices. Let’s take a look at some of the more familiar applications of RPM solutions in today’s healthcare landscape:  

Weight and blood pressure tracking for patients with congestive heart failure 

Doctors and nurses at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center use RPM to help patients with congestive heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and postpartum hypertension. By sending patients home with blood pressure cuffs, smart scales, and pulse oximeters, they can keep track of important metrics—primarily blood pressure and weight. 

The data collected from these RPM devices are sent to a staff of nurses, who will analyze and report their findings to both doctors and patients. When they discover distressing or out-of-the-ordinary information, such as high blood pressure or unexpected weight loss, they can communicate those issues to patients via phone or video calls, and collaborate with doctors on determining the best plan moving forward. This has helped the medical center lower readmission rates and has made it easier for patients to manage conditions on their own.  

Medication compliance monitoring for children 

The Children’s Medical Center in Dallas implemented RPM to improve the effectiveness of medication prescriptions. Physicians and parents often have a difficult time getting children to consistently take their medication, let alone track the success of their prescribed daily doses. 

By having patients wear smart skin patches, they can detect when medications are not being taken, and automatically follow up via text messages to get their patients back on track. Parents can also access a mobile app that allows them to properly manage their children’s medication schedule, saving time and effort on the physician’s end—while also reducing the risk of readmission. 

Post-hospitalization recovery for patients with COVID-19

In 2020, the nonprofit medical center Mayo Clinic started using RPM to care for patients infected with COVID-19. Upon being released from the hospital, high-risk patients are given a pulse oximeter, an electronic thermometer, and a blood pressure monitor to track the progress of their recovery. The clinic established a special team dedicated to monitoring the data collected from these devices, so they can act on specific deviations as soon as possible. 

For example, if a patient’s pulse oximeter shows a dramatic drop in oxygenation levels, doctors can intervene to prevent that patient from suffering from shortness of breath. This type of remote monitoring, again, reduces the likelihood of readmission and creates more available space in the hospital. 

Diabetic foot ulcer prevention for veterans

In 2019, the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) reported over 75,000 cases of diabetic foot ulcers, which cost around $47,000 to treat and can often lead to amputation. Veterans vulnerable to this condition were given Podimetrics SmartMats, which use thermal imaging to measure the temperature of their feet. 

By having their patients stand on the mat for just 20 seconds a day, physicians are able to detect early signs of diabetic foot ulcers, giving them enough time to intervene with the proper treatment. This is especially helpful for veterans who live far away from healthcare facilities. 

Cardiac monitoring for post-heart-surgery patients

The University of Southern California Health Center created a telehealth program for monitoring patients recovering from heart surgery. It involves providing discharged patients with several RPM devices, including a smart scale, pulse oximeter, blood pressure monitor, and heart rate monitor. 

These devices provide the USC hospital staff with real-time data and alerts, so they can get in front of post-surgery complications as quickly and efficiently as possible. In particular, they can detect early signs of pneumonia, negative reactions to medication, and shortness of breath.      

Team up with Codal to incorporate remote patient monitoring into your healthcare organization

By the year 2027, the global RPM market is estimated to reach $2.14 billion. Given the many opportunities that this technology presents for both patients and providers, it’s no surprise that an increasing number of healthcare organizations are adopting RPM solutions. Blood pressure monitors, oximeters, skin patches, and a wide range of other devices help healthcare professionals improve patient satisfaction, lower readmission rates, increase profitability, and save more lives. 

But the integration of RPM solutions does not happen overnight. It requires a team of IoT experts that understand the technology, as well as the organization’s current infrastructure and needs. That’s where Codal comes in. With over a decade of experience digitally transforming healthcare organizations, we’ll help you pick the right solutions for your practice, then guide you through the integration process, conduct user testing, and provide ongoing support. 
Ready to get started with remote patient monitoring? Reach out to Codal today!

Gibson Toombs
AUTHOR

Gibson Toombs

Gibson Toombs is a Technical Content Writer at Codal. His writing career began in 2015 after graduating from the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication. Since then, he has worked on many projects, covering a wide range of technical topics, from solar energy to cybersecurity. When he’s not taking complex ideas and turning them into easily-digestible pieces of content, Gibson can be found playing guitar and writing songs at his apartment in Chicago.

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