Doctors making house calls went the way of the dodo bird decades ago. Today, patients go where medical professionals are located, be that the doctor’s office, a clinic, an imaging center, a hospital, or many others.
This structure makes for an efficient system — a doctor can remain in one place and see tens of patients a day rather than roaming around and seeing just a few, for example. And of course, most healthcare services today require resources that can’t be carried around.
But this centralized structure also creates a situation where patients make visits that may not be necessary. One example is monitoring various vital signs — chances are, if you need your blood pressure checked and don’t have the equipment at home or a comfort level using it, then you make a trip to the doctor.
Also, some signs of health, like blood glucose levels, would benefit from more constant monitoring and assessment than the system typically provides.
That’s where remote patient monitoring (RPM) comes into play. Also known as remote physiologic monitoring, RPM is defined as “the use of digital technologies to monitor and capture medical and other health data from patients and electronically transmit this information to healthcare providers for assessment and, when necessary, recommendations and instructions.”
In other words, RPM allows the gathering of a variety of important health information wherever a patient might be and without the need to visit a healthcare facility.
RPM has become increasingly popular in the last several years, due in part to changes in Medicare payments that provide incentives for the adoption of the technology. While RPM was already gaining steam before the pandemic, COVID-19 certainly demonstrated the value of gaining insights into patient health without the need for a physical visit that might increase the risk of spreading the virus.
RPM thus both helps the patient maintain independence and reduces the burden on the healthcare system by reducing the need for onsite visits.
Video consultations are growing more popular, but you’ll need a good Web Cam.
RPM includes both monitoring at healthcare facilities that’s transmitted to another centralized location and monitoring that’s done outside of healthcare settings. We’re focusing on the latter in this story, specifically the use of home-based monitoring systems that can transmit health care data that’s reviewed on an ongoing basis by healthcare professionals.
How does RPM work?
The first step in selecting an RPM solution is for a patient to be diagnosed with a condition where care would be enhanced by the continuous collection and review of various healthcare data. Things like blood pressure, weight, vital signs, heart rate, and blood sugar levels are some of the information that RPM can provide.
Once the condition and the necessary health data have been identified, a device (or devices) are provided to the patient that is connected to healthcare providers via either cellular or Bluetooth connections.
The data that’s collected is analyzed by those providers and contributes to the patient’s care, including identifying acute issues that arise and need immediate attention as well as ensuring that certain vital signs are where they should be during chronic conditions.
Types of RPM
There are several types of RPM that are in common use today, a few of which are discussed below. Each of these RPM devices performs specific functions and is used for a variety of different reasons as vital elements in the care of various conditions.
Blood glucose monitor
Blood glucose monitors are key to the management of diabetic patients, and there’s tremendous value to continuous monitoring. Rather than relying on patients self-monitoring their blood glucose levels and thus potentially missing instances of hyperglycemia (too much blood glucose) or hypoglycemia (too little blood glucose), RPM-based blood glucose monitors can provide instant results of both conditions. This allows an immediate response, which can help avoid damage to the eyes, kidneys, nerves, and heart, as well as avoiding ketoacidosis, or diabetic coma.
Blood pressure monitors
Blood pressure monitors are one of the most common and fundamental of all RPM devices. They allow providers to monitor a patient suffering from hypertension on an ongoing basis in real-life settings and situations, and they help avoid the “white-coat hypertension” effect where patients exhibit higher blood pressure in doctor’s offices. According to the American Heart Association, RPM can “RPM can reduce systolic blood pressure (SBP) and diastolic blood pressure (DBP) significantly compared to usual care and self-monitoring alone.”
If you need blood pressure monitors, we got ’em.
A spirometer is a device used to measure lung capacity. Essentially, a patient blows into a tube that’s connected to a measuring device, indicating lung capacity by measuring the volume of air that’s moved along with the velocity of air that’s inhaled or exhaled. RPM-based spirometers are of value in patients with reduced lung capacity and help providers adjust treatment plans based on lung performance in a variety of situations. More recently, COVID-19 patients, many of whom suffer from disease-induced lung capacity reductions, have benefitted from RPM-based spirometers. An additional benefit is that the use of a remote spirometer reduces the potential for spreading the virus compared to an infected patient blowing air through a spirometer in a provider setting.
Why, yes. We do sell Spirometers.
Weight monitors are typically highly accurate scales that are wirelessly connected and capable of sending data to providers. The value of weight monitors includes providing objective data for weight loss programs as well as identifying acute issues, such as in the case of patients suffering from congestive heart failure where sudden weight gains can indicate a worsening condition.
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An electrocardiography (ECG) device measure heart function, providing a wealth of data on a patient’s condition. RPM-based ECG devices can benefit patients with pacemakers, allowing continuous monitoring of the device’s performance and the patient’s condition. In addition, for patients at risk of cardiac disease, RPM-based ECG provides independence and cuts down on office visits and in-home nursing. One of the most common devices with remote ECG capabilities is the Apple Watch, which provides single-lead ECG functionality that can identify atrial fibrillation.
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Remove patient monitoring provides a wealth of value to both individual patients, providers, and the healthcare system in general. They increase patient independence, cut down on unnecessary on-site visits, and provide a level of continuous monitoring that would be otherwise impossible. As more RPM devices are developed, exponential growth in the RPM market can be expected, with tremendous increases in both the quality of care provided to patients and the overall efficiency of the healthcare system.
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