Remote Patient Monitoring: Vital Tools for Providers
It might seem impossible for physicians to observe patients 24/7 outside of a clinical setting, but advancements in technology are enabling providers to be engaged and vigilant at any hour, day or night. It’s known as remote patient monitoring (RPM), and even though it’s existed for years, it has only recently become a vital component of the national healthcare landscape.
We’ve used RPM at Contessa since the inception of our program. The greatest success has been treating seniors and those living with chronic diseases – two patient populations who often struggle to travel to the office or clinic for in-person evaluations. That’s a large part of why I believe providers (and patients) should expect RPM to become more ingrained in their healthcare experience.
What is RPM?
Put simply, newer technologies have made it possible for providers to connect with patients’ even when they are at different locations. RPM enables the assessment of patient health and wellbeing and can be leveraged in a variety of settings, from acute care to the management of chronic diseases.
Providers stand to benefit greatly from integrating RPM into their clinical services. RPM enhances continuity of care and (somewhat counterintuitively) allows for closer contact with patients, giving providers a sightline to vitals and baseline data points at home, at all hours, rather than in a temporary clinical setting. The ability to track health data in between appointments and visits is a major advantage to both efficiency and peace-of-mind, as providers can monitor patients’ key biometrics and vital signs – such as blood pressure, blood oxygen, blood sugar, heart rate and rhythm – to better control health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, dementia, and respiratory disease.
RPM in Action
Contessa’s RPM process begins with our welcome kits, which include Bluetooth-enabled tablets for patients to use at home. These tablets come with peripheral Bluetooth-enabled devices such as a blood pressure cuff, pulse oximeter and scale that connect to the tablet and allow for the transfer of biometric data. These devices are intuitive, making for seamless implementation and ease-of-use for patients challenged by age or disease.
We also use RPM technology to track patient data and information related to their overall health and wellbeing. When changes are detected that may require intervention, like a pacemaker adjustment or longer-term interventions like medication modifications and lifestyle changes, teams are instantly alerted and can take proper action. We’ve seen RPM trigger changes in treatment regimens and visitation schedules, ultimately driving better outcomes and even saving lives.
Future of Healthcare
Amid the COVID-19 public health emergency, we are seeing a rapid increase in RPM and other digital health services being used in healthcare organizations nationwide, something we believe is long overdue. For patients who test positive for COVID-19, home-based monitoring can track changes in symptoms and reduce the risk of transmission. These initial advances have come quickly, and we’re confident that more are on the horizon, meaning even better care coordination when it’s never been more important.
As virtual care services continue to expand, chronic conditions increase, social determinants of health are further explored and the consumerization of healthcare grows, we expect to see RPM implemented as a standard for patient care. Providers using RPM technology can ensure that patients are receiving early intervention and adjusted treatment plans when needed, and patients can rest easy knowing they don’t have to travel to their hospital or clinic just to communicate with their doctor about their health. Though RPM is just one more tool in the at-home hospitalist’s toolbox, it is quickly becoming a critical one in modern medicine.
Disclaimer: The author of this post, geriatrician Mark Montoney, MD, was previously Contessa’s Chief Medical Officer. Though he is retired and no longer with the organization, the information in this article is clinically accurate and verified.