Remote patient monitoring (RPM) involves overseeing a patient’s vital signs outside of a hospital environment, such as at home or in an aged care facility. It involves hardware, like medical sensors, to acquire data and software to save and interpret the readings. Additionally, RPM is often used hand-in-hand with telehealth services.
RPM provides many benefits, including faster patient discharge, a reduced need for frequent in-person checkups and enabling people with chronic conditions to manage their own health.
Like any new area of healthcare technology, remote patient monitoring comes with many challenges that must be addressed before we can get the most from it.
The adoption of remote patient monitoring needs to increase
We have seen the use cases and benefits of remote patient monitoring with medical sensors and wearable devices. With over 100 million telehealth services delivered in Australia since the pandemic’s beginning, we can expect remote patient monitoring services to continue growing.
But, RPM services are far from standardised, and many different types of RPM technologies exist. While some of these technologies allow patients to share data with their healthcare providers, others provide alerts to patients about their medication or other aspects of their care, and yet others alert caregivers by integrating into their systems or notifying them directly. Having an integrated or interoperable system where RPM data can be correlated against other patient data is ideal, but not all healthcare providers have the option of integrating RPM services with their current infrastructure. The current availability of RPM services also depends upon the condition. Remote monitoring for certain conditions, like diabetes, has remained the norm for many years, but this is not the case for other conditions, such as hypertension.
Despite the challenges of standards and integration, remote patient monitoring demonstrates a compelling case for improving care. One study found that patients who used an RPM system were more likely to adhere to their medication regimen. So, it seems that we have no other option but to accept remote patient monitoring as a crucial part of improving healthcare.
Patients need equal access to these programs
Equity in healthcare has remained a long-standing issue. People in rural areas, with the nearest town almost eight hours’ drive away, also need access to emergency care. And while organisations such as the Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) have closed the gap, they can be aided by dedicated technology solutions such as remote patient monitoring.
To offer true equity, we must consider how patients from every demographic can utilise the technology. Low socioeconomic households may struggle to afford the necessary devices and internet connectivity to support an RPM service. So we need to ensure that RPM services are structured in such a way to be accessible on restricted internet plans and with subsidised devices.
Furthermore, patients with poor computer literacy need devices and applications that are easy to learn and use. People will not feel motivated to comply with these programs if the task of learning the technology feels like it outweighs the benefits.
There is no clear solution yet to ensuring equity, but it must be at the forefront of discussions around improving and implementing remote patient monitoring. There is little point in deploying these solutions if they only benefit part of the population.
Medical sensors need to integrate with the patient’s life
Remote patient monitoring aims to ensure that patients stay healthy at home and avoid unnecessary hospital visits or readmissions. Medical sensors must be unobtrusive and easy to use and wear. Patients must easily integrate the necessary technology into their lives without too much effort, they should be able to go about daily life without thinking about the technology.
When sensors collect data, the information must be transmitted seamlessly to the RPM service and offer the ability to notify the caregiver when readings go out of range, or some condition is identified. Furthermore, there needs to be a simple way for the caregiver to inform the patient, thereby closing the loop. And, if a health monitoring sensor malfunctions, it must be easily fixed or replaced, so very little data is lost.
Once we meet these criteria, remote patient monitoring technology can be valuable in managing chronic conditions and population health and alleviating the strain on the healthcare system and staff. When it all comes together, the result is a system that can help people manage their health and avoid complications. It is a system that can give peace of mind to patients and their families, reduce overall costs, and has the potential to transform healthcare.
We must consider system usability for healthcare staff
The technology that enables remote patient monitoring must also be accessible to healthcare providers. Remote monitoring should make their job easier, so the data collected must move smoothly from the patient’s devices to the clinic or hospital records systems.
Creating remote patient monitoring solutions that are easy for healthcare staff to use is critical to ensuring their adoption by healthcare staff. If a solution is too complicated or time-consuming to set up and manage, it is unlikely that it will be used to its full potential, leading to missed opportunities for early intervention and treatment.
Adding Artificial Intelligence (AI) to the monitoring process is making RPM services far more valuable. For example, if a patient routinely monitors their blood pressure, and their reading is very different from their average, it would appear to be a cause for concern. However, the person may have gone for a run or had a coffee – both normal activities as part of their morning routine. AI can analyse the data gathered in the context of personal and population norms as well as the environment so that notifications are not triggered unnecessarily. Too many false positive alerts will erode the confidence in the RPM system and cause real issues to become overlooked.
Fluffy Spider Technologies can refine your monitoring technology
We help organisations move toward a future of connected digital healthcare, making existing systems interoperable and modernising infrastructure to unlock the potential of new technologies.
We can help you identify the relevant opportunities to incorporate modern web services and standards for health information exchange, such as HL7 and FHIR fast healthcare interoperability resources, enabling systems to interoperate with other modern health information exchange technologies from the medical software industry and those already implemented by large healthcare providers such as Government health departments.
Visit our Healthcare Integration Services page to learn more about our capabilities and solutions.