Remote patient monitoring solutions and how they work
The traditional healthcare system requires patients to visit a clinic or a hospital if they need to consult a doctor. This appointment consumes both the patient’s and the doctor’s time and is costly for the patient as they need to travel to the healthcare facility and pay for the appointment. However, patients can avoid this face-to-face meeting unless it’s an emergency.
Another drawback of the traditional healthcare delivery system is that the patient can only deem it necessary to contact a healthcare facility in case of a health issue once this issue aggravates. There is no way to detect this other than through an appointment.
The situations above can be improved using remote patient monitoring (RPM) solutions. Remote patient monitoring and the internet of medical things are changing the healthcare model by turning it from ‘hospital-centered’ into ‘home-centered’ and making it more affordable and accessible for all social groups.
Many healthcare software development companies aspire to innovate in remote patient monitoring platforms for managing various conditions. Notably, they find support among clinical stakeholders. The proof of this is the global RPM equipment market is expected to reach $175.2bn by 2027, according to ResearchAndMarkets.
Inside remote patient monitoring
RPM uses digital technologies to gather patient health data outside traditional clinical settings and transmit it to a healthcare facility for assessment and analysis. Technically a part of telehealth technologies, RPM offers the convenience of receiving continuous medical care from a professional while remaining at home. An example of healthcare data that can be monitored is heart rate, blood pressure, blood sugar level, and weight.
RPM can be beneficial for the following groups of users:
- Patients with chronic illnesses
- Elderly patients
- Patients with limited mobility
- Patients from rural areas with limited access to healthcare facilities
- Post-surgical patients
Remote patient monitoring uses an array of technologies that vary according to a particular condition and metrics tracked. Despite this variety, there is a typical architecture for each solution that comprises the following elements:
- Sensors are placed on portable medical devices and wearables to measure a patient’s vitals, such as blood pressure, weight, temperature, blood oxygen levels, heart rate, sleep, and ECG.
- Local data storage stores the data acquired from sensors on the patient’s side and communicates with the centralized repository on the provider’s side.
- Centralized repository aggregates and stores data from different sources, such as EHR implementations, patient devices, and analytic systems.
- Data analysis software generates insights from a centralized repository and pushes alerts to providers, caregivers, and patients as needed.
The diversity of RPM applications
Integrated remote monitoring systems have multiple applications, from disease prevention to detection and management.
Diabetes is a chronic condition that can lead to severe complications if not managed well. Diabetic patients continuously experience peaks and troughs in their blood glucose levels, which should be regularly balanced to avoid hyper- and hypoglycemia. Also, patients should be aware of their blood pressure, temperature, and weight. Additionally, these patients can develop other complications, such as diabetic foot ulcers, which can result in amputation if not treated timely.
For this reason, the Department of Veterans Affairs adopted a wireless RMP technology to catch diabetic foot ulcers among veterans at the outset. If not diagnosed in time, this condition can result in limb loss. One in four veterans has diabetes, and the Health Data Management Journal reports diabetic foot ulcers to cause 80% of non-traumatic amputations among veterans.
Podimetrics SmartMat uses clinical decision support tools and thermal imaging to collect foot temperature scans. Veterans place their feet on the mat for 20 seconds per day, and the obtained data is sent to a diagnostician for analysis. If feet temperature exceeds the allowed threshold, doctors communicate with the veteran prescribing appropriate care.
When tested, SmartMat detected 97% of diabetic foot ulcer risks five weeks before the symptoms appeared.
Avoiding heart failure
Remote patient monitoring telehealth applications allow for decreasing the risk of heart failure in patients prone to this condition with the help of cardiac resynchronization devices and smart pacemakers that can send patient health information to a central repository. This information can be analyzed to derive patterns and help providers keep patients stable, improving their life quality and decreasing the overall mortality rate.
Eko, a California-based startup, developed two devices similar to a stethoscope. The CORE device delivers sound amplification 40 times larger than a traditional stethoscope. The DUO device combines sound and electrocardiogram recording. DUO is an at-home device that patients can use to monitor their heartbeat.
Complex AI and machine learning algorithms analyze cardiac health using electrocardiogram and the heartbeat sound. The sound analysis is based on capturing a specific sound caused by the turbulent blood flow. This sound interferes with the cardiac beat, so a human ear cannot detect it using a regular stethoscope.
With age, individuals develop risks of dementia. Remote patient monitoring tools help the elderly stay safe while being more independent from their caregivers, taking walks whenever they feel like it, and still being under supervision.
Researchers from the University of Malaga (Spain) have developed an innovative cane that can transmit relevant data about the older person using this smart device. This data includes the elderly’s weight-bearing while walking. The data is generated by the pressure sensors embedded in the cane and captured by a smartphone via Bluetooth. Data transmission occurs without any additional effort from the elderly.
Real-time health monitoring
Remote monitoring can be used as a preventive measure that implies using mobile devices and sensors to swiftly detect changes in the human body before it shows visible symptoms, helping avoid costly treatment.
Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the Morgridge Institute for Research are developing a smart toilet system that analyzes urine to extract important metabolic data.
Urine contains metabolic links to over 600 human conditions, including cancer and kidney malfunctioning. Continuous analysis of urine metabolites gives a real-time indication of a patient’s health. Patients can access the results and receive recommendations using a mobile app.
Remote patient monitoring is the present, not the future
With more technologies emerging and evolving in healthcare, such as precision medicine, data analytics, blockchain, and others, the message is clear—the patient becomes the central point of care.
Providers should put more effort into promoting remote patient monitoring with various digital marketing services, accelerating the transition to this patient-focused realm, and adopting the customer-centric approach common to retail companies. Winning patient loyalty now means safeguarding the relevance of providers’ services for years to come.