The Future of Remote Patient Monitoring: Advancements and Innovations

Post-pandemic medicine has undergone a sea change in the ways that healthcare is delivered. While many of the technologies that were essential to the proliferation of telemedicine existed pre-pandemic, it took the crucible of that event to catalyze the rapid adoption of telemedicine and remote patient monitoring technologies that are fueling the current wave of telehealth-first practices and healthcare services we see today. The convenience and reliability of remote monitoring interactions are accepted and often preferred by some patients and providers in certain scenarios. What is RPM?  A promising new development in patient-centered healthcare, remote patient monitoring (RPM) is making its way to homes all across the country. RPM allows healthcare providers to track patients’ vital signs, symptoms, and medication adherence from a distance, improving patient outcomes while reducing healthcare costs. As technology continues to improve and advance, RPM is revolutionizing how medical data is gathered and analyzed and moving a diverse, once-isolated population towards improved quality of care. RPM is gaining popularity in rural areas that are cut off or far-removed from in-person medical facilities and providers. Homebound individuals can access the frequent care they are likely to need without needing to coordinate complicated logistics or spend excessive amounts of time traveling to and from appointments. In short, RPM is easing many of the pain points of what was considered standard healthcare up until this point.  As RPM utilization increases, the healthcare industry will adopt additional solutions, creating greater flexibility, consistency, and convenience to achieve both patient and provider goals. Here, we explore the benefits of RPM, the innovations it is making possible in healthcare, and its potential for reshaping the future of healthcare.  RPM: What are the benefits and are there any drawbacks? RPM can track patient data such as vital signs, blood pressure, glucose levels, and heart rate. This data is collected through a variety of devices such as wearables, sensors, and mobile apps. The data is then transmitted to healthcare professionals who can monitor the data and make informed decisions about the patient's health. RPM is a valuable tool for providers, with many benefits including:
    • Reduced Healthcare costs: RPM has the potential to reduce healthcare costs by minimizing hospital visits, readmissions, and emergency room visits. By enabling providers to remotely monitor patients, they can respond more promptly, reducing the likelihood of costly complications.
    • Managing conditions & illness: Additional studies have shown benefits of RPM in managing diseases such as diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and congestive heart failure (CHF), high blood pressure, pregnancy complications, short-term illnesses, obesity, sleep apnea, and asthma. 
    • Improved patient access: With RPM, patients in rural areas can have easier, more consistent access to healthcare. More access means better preventive management for chronic illnesses which results in fewer emergency department visits, hospital readmission avoidance, and reduced hospital length of stays. All of these factors result in reduced risk of illnesses for admitted patients and health care workers. RPM is also a great option for seniors and others living with mobility issues. It increases independence and reduces the time, money, and energy spent in maintaining primary care facilities.
    • Improved quality of care: Using RPM, practitioners gain a more comprehensive understanding of a patient's health, which can lead to more accurate treatment decisions, fewer emergency room visits, and more time between in-office visits. This can also facilitate a more individualized approach to healthcare, as RPM can help patients feel more in control of their health by actively participating in the data collection process.
    • Increased Health Literacy: By engaging with the data collection process personally, and by adding multiple provider touchpoints whenever there is an abnormal trend or missed dose, providers have the opportunity to cultivate more trusting relationships with and better health literacy among their patients. 
Expansion of RPM  RPM technology became widely popular during the peak of the COVID pandemic, as necessity transformed its use from a convenient-yet-somewhat-fringe component of healthcare to a vital and effective solution for overseeing patient care when on-site visits were impossible. Now, RPM is becoming the “new normal”. More and more healthcare providers are recognizing the value of this technology and are investing in it to improve patient care.  By 2026, RPM services are expected to increase by 28%, with 23.4 million US patients already using remote patient monitoring services and tools in 2020. Investment in RPM to support telehealth and virtual care will grow in proportion to growing confidence among consumers and providers. Diabetes is the leading application segment in the RPM market, accounting for 12.8% in 2021. This growth will be accompanied by an expansion in the applications of RPM. Studies show that in 2023, we can expect to see RPM in new care settings such as mental health and pediatric care. As soon as this year (2023), RPM devices may be used to detect mental health issues through physical indicators such as activity levels, sleep patterns, and heart rate. Telepsychiatry and remote talk therapy is already popular for people receiving mental health care, and RPM for mental health could take things a step further, connection patients to interactive tools to learn therapeutic techniques, log daily medications, then join a group therapy session from the comfort of their couch. Pediatric patients and their caregivers already leverage RPM to manage various healthcare issues including asthma, diabetes, genetic conditions, behavioral health, neonatal care, and more. For children, providing care at a place they are most comfortable with can improve their health outcomes. RPM also provides flexibility and increased access for families with time and geographic limitations. As digital technologies and interactive healthcare applications become more and more commonplace, we can expect to see them evolve in sophistication and ease of use. Wearable tech, integrations with smartphone data and apps, and other developments in our daily relationship to technology will inform this evolution.  RPM: Iterating on Innovation Wearable devices that monitor a patient's vitals, such as heart rate and blood pressure, are becoming more common in RPM. These devices can provide real-time data to healthcare providers, allowing more timely and effective care. From Fitbit and smartwatches that can monitor heart rate and oxygen levels to more sophisticated devices such as ECGs, pulse oximeters, and blood pressure monitors, patients will be better equipped to receive care from home moving forward.   Patients with low health literacy levels are more likely to have poor health outcomes, make medication errors, have trouble managing chronic conditions, make unnecessary hospital visits, and be readmitted. RPM solutions are increasingly incorporating tools and resources such as teach-back videos and telehealth consultations to help patients better understand their health and take an active role in their care. Practitioners are also including disease-specific materials into patient care plans to encourage them to be more proactive in their disease management.   Lastly, as more sensitive health data is collected and transmitted via RPM systems, the need for robust data security measures will become increasingly important. Therefore, telehealth and RPM providers like POD Health will continue to prioritize patient privacy and confidentiality; continuously designing new ways to protect the privacy and security of patient data. Final thoughts: RPM is here to stay, and will play a critical role in the healthcare industry in the foreseeable future and likely for years to come. As technology advances, so will the need for tools that streamline processes for providers and facilitate better care for patients. RPM can provide just that, taking healthcare delivery to the next level.  At POD Health, patient baselines are individually set by experienced clinicians for a personal, customized approach. We ensure the client is well-informed on how to use their devices, and that they understand the necessary steps towards improving their health. As leaders in RPM advancement, POD Health provides our patients with a dedicated care team and a more coordinated, informed care experience. 

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