The Future of Healthcare, Remote Patient Monitoring

 Sanjesh Rao

Sanjesh Rao,
Chief Product Officer at zyter

It's inescapable, there's no doubt you've heard it by now, we're talking about the terms "telemedicine" and "telehealth". In the age of Covid-19 where staying at home is key and social distancing is a must, many industries have found ways to digitize their services, the medical industry is one of them. In 2020 healthcare IoT was the only sector that saw double-digit growth. Gartner even predicts that the RPM market will only continue to increase in 2021!

Though telemedicine already existed, its function has rapidly progressed from basic monitoring to much more. Telemedicine can be broken down into three categories:

  • • Store and Forward: the "original" form of telemedicine that simply allows providers to share a patient's information with another practitioner.
  • • Interactive Medicine: commonly known as a virtual doctor's visit; allows a patient and provider to communicate in real-time. Gone are the days of only being able to seek medical attention by seeing your doctor face to face!
  • • Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM): patients can now be monitored by their providers from the comfort of their home! Through the use of medical devices, providers consistently collect data to monitor and treat patients accordingly.

This article will focus primarily on remote patient monitoring. The practice started off with basic heart sensors and the transmission of EKGs, telecommunicated x-rays, and lab data. However, as of late, it has transformed into so much more. Remote patient monitoring has gone in-depth, allowing providers to keep track of several digital biomarkers, including:

  • • Glucose
  • • Blood pressure
  • • Oxygen Saturation
  • • Weight and BMI
  • • Fitness logging
  • • Temperature
  • • Heart rate and EKG
  • • Dementia surveillance
  • • Risk stratification

RPM manages most vitals, from tracking one diabetic patient's glucose to keeping tabs on another's mental health. The constant monitoring has given providers the ability to safely determine if a patient's condition has stabilized, improved, or worsened. The collected data gives providers the opportunity to create personalized treatment plans.

The extent of RPM doesn't stop with the aforementioned. New technology is being developed regularly to help advance patient care and improve healthcare accessibility. RPM has significantly cut back on the logistics of a doctor's visit with no long waits or cold exam tables and for today's working society, patients no longer have to worry about missing a day at the office for a standard vitals check!

Remote patient monitoring is accessible via your smartphone or tablet; however, the majority of the devices are now wearable! Most health metrics can be tracked in one of two ways. The first is with the use of Bluetooth devices. Bluetooth technology sends data directly to your smartphone which then passes it into the cloud. The second method is with devices that come with cellular connectivity. These devices function without relying on smartphones to transmit the data.

Artificial intelligence has even begun to take its place in RPM. With extensive amounts of data coming in from various patients, programs exist which alert providers and care teams if a patient has an abnormal reading. Monitoring dashboards allow providers and care teams to set ranges for readings, tailored to each patient based on their condition and situation. If the set ranges are exceeded, warnings and emergency alerts are sent to command centers or care teams where clinicians will then be contacted to set a course of action.

The future of RPM will be able to not only monitor but also predict a stroke or a patient's health risks based on historical data. With predictive and prescriptive analytics, the system will recognize and predict the health issue with enough time to "prescribe" a solution. An example of this would be placing a call to 911 in the event of a stroke - potentially saving a patient's life.

Augmented and virtual reality are playing a role in RPM too. Remote patient therapies are being partnered with RPM to better treat chronic conditions. VR clinics even take it a step further by offering support groups moderated by physicians. These support groups allow patients to meet anonymously with others who, like them, are suffering from the same chronic ailment.

This is the age of Healthcare 4.0, which will be discussed further in future articles. The medical industry has never been so digitized and it's only improving, becoming more efficient and more effective! For the collection of data and medical records, we're seeing market growth with blockchain technology. Blockchain will help collect, monitor, and analyze patient records in an accurate and timely manner. Furthermore, laws and regulations (HIPAA) will largely influence the use of blockchain technology in RMP!

RPM is quickly evolving and every day new technology breaks boundaries. It has allowed medical care to reach places where it was not easily accessible before. This not only improves the general health of our population, but it also allows for improved individualized patient treatment plans. The future for both health care organizations and their patients is bright!

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