Advancements in remote patient monitoring (RPM) mean physicians can get a clear picture of health outside of face-to-face appointments. That’s a crucial advantage, especially for people who live in rural areas or cannot easily travel to doctors’ offices.
Telehealth in general has become common during the Covid-19 pandemic. Remote monitoring could further change the future of health care.
According to Research and Markets, the Global RPM systems market is projected to be worth over $1.7 billion by 2027, up nearly 128 percent from the opportunity the market currently represents. And the devices are chock-full of sensors, processors and wireless technology.
Remote monitoring could reshape clinical trials
Clinical trials are vital parts of drug development. However, recruitment can become tricky, especially since participation usually requires periodically checking in with representatives at in-person visits. Remote monitoring could change that.
For example, a 2021 GlobalData study revealed RPM would have the biggest impact on the pharmaceutical sector. That’s largely due to how trials could run more efficiently and gather more reliable data. If a trial manager gets continual information from a participant, it’s probably more accurate than what’s measured during a brief office visit.
Remote monitoring also reduced risk levels during trials conducted throughout Covid-19 outbreaks. In the case of 572 oncology trials with more than 3,700 participants, no one caught the virus due to participation. The people overseeing those investigations used a remote management model to keep potential exposure low.
However, it’s still not commonplace to use remote monitoring technology for trials. Thus, the people providing the financial support and other necessary resources may need encouragement to move beyond their comfort zone.
Remote monitoring reduces risk
Remote monitoring technology can also minimize many risks associated with a lack of visibility into changes in a patient's condition. For example, a person with diabetes who doesn’t measure their blood sugar often enough could end up hospitalized. The same is true for someone who doesn’t realize their hypertension has gotten out of control. Smart monitors can assist in situations like those by picking up on bodily shifts before an individual feels symptoms.
RPM also minimizes risks for physicians and other providers. For example, hospital workers used it to track patient vitals during the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic to reduce provider exposure to sick and contagious people. One study involved overseeing patients at medical facilities in 41 states as they recovered from the virus. The results showed a less than 1 percent rate of 30-day complications in patients receiving low-intensity monitoring.
However, for RPM devices to work as intended, the people who design and manufacture them must keep patient usability in mind. These monitoring gadgets have advanced electronics that enable data collection, connectivity and other functionality. When designed well, these products can reduce treatment-related stress, particularly when patients rest assured that their providers receive up-to-date statistics.
If they become too overwhelming for users, adoption rates won’t rise. Device makers and purchasers must keep the target market in mind. For example, 2021 statistics showed that only 64 percent of Americans over 65 had internet access at home. That shows why Wi-Fi-enabled devices are often impractical, and those with cellular connectivity may be better choices.
Remote patient monitoring can complement telemedicine
As more people begin experiencing remote patient monitoring they'll see it pairs well with telemedicine visits. Suppose a person’s vital signs show concerning trends after beginning a new heart medication. In that case, their provider might schedule a telemedicine visit to discuss a potential adjustment or other intervention.
A company called StethoMe sends smart stethoscopes to telemedicine patients in participating European markets. The connected, wireless tool is specially designed to detect lung issues in people from home after guided self-examinations. Their results are transmitted to a doctor for professional evaluation. This example shows a potential trend where people supplement their remote visits with physical instruments and measuring devices.
However, there's also a risk that combining remote monitoring with telemedicine could increase provider workload. That was a finding associated with a University of Missouri study where patients with diabetes used in-home devices to remotely transmit blood glucose levels and blood pressure readings.
That telehealth application at least doubled nurses’ workloads compared to the tasks they did for in-person visits. For example, they entered incoming data on patients’ medical records, reminded participants to keep self-monitoring and submitting their results, or had remote visits with patients about care management. These findings alone do not make RPM impractical, but they show no one should automatically assume they’ll reduce provider care burdens.
Remote patient monitoring should keep gaining momentum
Remote patient monitoring is becoming more widely used, and that trend should continue. Its applications during the intense periods of the Covid-19 pandemic encouraged people to utilize such technologies more frequently than they had previously.
However, making the most of RPM as a user or purchaser of the technology means taking the time to understand how it works and whether people should take special precautions to increase the chances of getting the most accurate results. For example, does data transfer occur automatically, or must a patient take action to send it to a provider? Should a person wear a monitoring gadget while sleeping or just when awake?
Clarifying those specifics before moving ahead with increased use should boost adoption rates for providers and patients alike. RPM has abundant potential, but people must be familiar with the intended use cases before embracing the technology.