Remote Patient Monitoring: What’s Available and How They Differ

Blog Posts  |  28 November 2022

Written by: Cheryl Reifsnyder, PhD

Last week we looked at many of the benefits provided by remote patient monitoring (RPM), a type of healthcare delivery that uses home-based or mobile monitoring devices to collect patient data in a non-clinical setting, then transmits that data to healthcare providers (HCPs). By collecting patient information outside of the traditional healthcare delivery system, RPM provides both clinical benefits, such as enabling HCPs to monitor patients between visits or when in-person care is not possible, and non-clinical benefits, such as overcoming patients’ transportation barriers.

As the popularity of RPM devices increases, the number of devices available has increased as well, giving you an even greater range of options when selecting RPM for your patients. This article looks at some of the RPM devices available today as well as their advantages and disadvantages.

Uses for RPM

As the numbers and types of RPM devices increase, RPM is being used in more situations, to monitor more types of data, and to help improve treatment for more types of conditions. The first step in selecting RPM devices for your patients is to become familiar with the broad range of medical conditions RPM can be used to benefit.

Chronic conditions

RPM is proving a valuable tool for proactively caring for patients with chronic conditions. RPM allows providers to monitor patients’ health between visits, helping them provide better preventive management of their conditions. RPM also provides data that can help HCPs to adjust patients’ treatment for better outcomes.

Short-term illness

With RPM, hospitalized patients can be discharged more rapidly than they would have otherwise, because RPM provides a way for their care team to monitor their symptoms at home. Because data is collected in near real-time, RPM also provides HCPs with opportunities to respond more quickly if patients’ health conditions worsen.

Improving patients’ quality of life

RPM improves patients’ quality of life by improving their care management. Providers can use RPM data to adjust patients’ treatment and gain better understanding of how their home setting affects their condition—all of which helps to improve patients’ health and well-being.

Wellness care

RPM can also be used to monitor patients’ health for wellness and preventive care.

RPM devices

Selecting an RPM device for your patient also requires you to become familiar with the broad range currently available. Here are the most commonly used RPM devices:

Function Conditions Used to Monitor
Scales Enables patient and provider to track weight changes over time Obesity: affects a large number of people in the United States, an average of 41.9% from 2017 through March 2020, and is a leading risk factor for multiple health conditions; CHF: A health condition where weight gain is often a vital indicator of a worsening condition
Blood pressure cuff Calculates patient’s heart rate and blood flow by measuring changes in artery motion Hypertension, Diabetes type 1 and type 2, CHF, Kidney dysfunction
Pulse oximeter Non-invasive clip attached to patient’s finger (occasionally earlobe) to measure light wavelengths; determines blood oxygen level and pulse Helps provider monitor changes in patient’s lung function Chronic conditions such as CHF and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), COVID-19 screening and monitoring, Pneumonia, Asthma
Glucometer Tests patient’s blood sugar through a small drop of blood placed on a test strip connected to the device Type 1 and type 2 diabetes
Thermometer Thermometer provides a fast and accurate picture of body temperature COVID-19, flu, and other infections
ECG + Stethoscope The ECG captures heart activity while the stethoscope captures heart and lung sounds Cardiac conditions such as arrhythmias or coronary artery disease

Other types of RPM

Although the RPM devices described above are provided to the patient, another type of RPM device is becoming more popular: wearables. Wearables are increasingly in demand. Deloitte Global predicts that 320 million consumer health and wellness wearable devices will ship in 2022, and that that number will reach nearly 440 million by 2024. Wearables include smartwatches and activity trackers, such as a Fitbit, as well as medical-grade wearables that are usually called “smart patches.” Smart patches are usually small and unobtrusive, stickers that attach directly to the patient’s skin. Unlike “smart watches,” which tend to collect a broad range of health-related data, these patches are usually designed for only one function—such as diabetes management or drug delivery.

Smartwatches and wearable medical devices enable patients to monitor their health data 24/7. Historically, they were most used to help people reach their fitness goals or lose weight, but advances in sensor technology and artificial intelligence enables today’s users to monitor:

  • Heart health
  • Chronic conditions
  • Daily steps
  • Workout information
  • Sleep duration and quality
  • Calories
  • Stress levels
  • Possible COVID-19 symptoms (such as blood oxygen saturation)
  • And more

Heart rate monitors are now standard on most smartwatches, and some have FDA approval to detect heart abnormalities such as atrial fibrillation, which is a major cause of stroke.

Types of connections

RPM devices also vary in how they collect and transmit data. Many devices require little to no handling by the patient: For instance, the patient steps on a scale, it measures their weight, and it transmits that data, ultimately to the patient’s health record. Other devices require patient input. For instance, UCLA gives patients recovering from heart surgery a “Cardiac Telehealth Kit.” As part of the kit, patients must complete a daily questionnaire, take videos and photos of their incision site, then transmit this information electronically to their care team.

Some devices transmit data via cellular technology. Cellular networks are very reliable, so patients can transmit data from anywhere their provider’s network is available. Data is transmitted in real time, which means providers can be notified instantly if a patient’s data shows any concerning changes. Cellular RPM devices are also ready to use right out of the box, without any complicated setup, making them a preferred option for less tech-savvy patients. However, one disadvantage is that patients in rural areas may have difficulty getting good service for their cellular devices. Another is that any outages to the cellular network will interfere with patients’ ability to transmit data—which can be a severe problem for high-risk patients who need continuous monitoring.

Other devices utilize Bluetooth technology, sending patient data over wireless connections to devices that can connect to the Internet. Patients using Bluetooth RPM devices do not need to worry about cellular network outages because they can transmit data as long as they have a Bluetooth-capable device and Internet access. There is also a wider selection of RPM devices that use Bluetooth than cellular technology. A disadvantage of Bluetooth devices is that their setup can be difficult, and they may have pairing issues. They may also require regular updates.

Integrating with RPM technology

Patients who are engaging with their health daily by using RPM devices are more likely to achieve lasting positive health outcomes, which is why RPM technology can be such a valuable addition to your medical practice. However, RPM is more useful when it can synchronize data with your electronic health record (EHR) system. Veradigm EHR supports integration with RPM devices via a bi-directional integration with virtual care management software. When software integrates with cellular-enabled RPM devices to monitor patient data, biometric readings are loaded directly into patients’ charts, giving providers the data, they need where they need it.

Contact us today to see how Veradigm EHR can support integration with RPM devices to take your patient care to the next level.

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