The dreaded doctor’s office visit, almost everyone has been there at some point.
Even the best doctors and medical facilities in the industry can’t make up for the time and money it costs patients to travel to appointments and treatments, especially those with chronic illnesses.
Since doctors appointments aren’t exactly high on the list of fun activities, it’s no wonder tech-savvy specialists are trying to minimize the number of such visits by creating new healthcare devices and technologies.
Today, medical equipment advancements are not only changing the efficiency of how hospitals and medical facilities operate but saving more lives through prevention and early detection. Over the past few years, patient monitoring has become the forefront of enhancing patient care and improving clinical performance all thanks to the advancement known as remote patient monitoring.
What Is a Patient Monitoring System?
When a patient has gone through surgery or is facing ongoing medical treatment, doctors and nurses use a number of different devices to help them evaluate and moderate a patient’s health. From stethoscopes and electrodes to patient monitors that track vital signs, there are hundreds of variations of patient moderation accessories and devices.
Patient monitoring systems monitor main vital signs such as pulse rate, body temperature, respiratory rate, and blood pressure. In cardiology, patient monitors function to measure and record the electrical activity of the heart (known as ECG / EKG or electrocardiography).
What is Remote Patient Monitoring?
Remote patient monitoring (RMP) is the use of digital technology to monitor patients in “real time” outside of hospitals and medical facilities. This allows patients to be medically monitored from the comfort of their homes instead of frequenting a doctor’s office. Remote patient monitoring falls under the umbrella term “telehealth.” Telehealth is the use of electronic information and telecommunications technologies to support long-distance clinical health care. Telehealth technologies include videoconferencing, internet, store-and-forward imaging, streaming media, and wireless communications.
While telehealth technologies such as RPM are advancing the way doctors connect with patients, it still poses some technical and practical problems for healthcare providers. Below we will discuss the pros and cons of remote patient monitoring.
Remote Patient Monitoring Benefits
Real Time Patient Monitoring Information
Without a doubt, one of the biggest benefits of remote patient monitoring systems is the ability to provide doctors with real time information about their patients’ health.
For example, chronic conditions such as heart failure and diabetes require frequent doctor visits and communication between the patient and their healthcare provider. Often patient waiting times for appointments can take weeks, and in extreme cases, months.
With remote patient monitoring, routine tests are done with a mobile or implanted device which collects data about a patient's health activity, such as heart rate and vitals, and then automatically sends it to a hospital or doctor’s office on a set schedule.
Doctors can review and analyze their patients on an ongoing basis in order to make timely interventions and prioritize patient appointments as needed.
Provides Patients With More Flexibility
Those with chronic diseases can spend most of their time traveling back and forth to medical appointments and in and out of hospitals. This is not only mentally and physically draining for the patient but for families and caretakers as well. By using RPM, the time required at the doctor’s office is significantly reduced, improving a patient’s quality of life.
Patients can enjoy more quality time with their loved ones while still receiving proper health analysis.
Additionally, those patients who can’t travel due to health conditions or have no means of transport to medical facilities, are provided with a new way of being treated. RMP allows doctors to have a broader reach to those formerly difficult to treat patients.
Saves Time and Money
Remote patient monitoring is a valuable tool for delivering better outcomes and quality care at lower costs, saving money for both the patient and provider. Frequent monitoring can determine if an in-person visit or appointment is warranted ideally reducing the number of in-hospital device evaluations, hospital admissions, the length of stay per hospitalization, and follow-up office visits.
According to Robert Ford, Executive President of Medical Devices at Abbot, “Every year in the United States, approximately one million people are hospitalized with a diagnosis of heart failure — the leading cause of hospitalizations for adults aged 65 or older. The cost of treating heart failure in the U.S. is expected to reach $70 billion by 2030, from about $30 billion today. (However) much of this cost can be addressed by remote monitoring.”
For patients, the money spent on commuting to appointments and visit copays can also be reduced.
Cons of Remote Patient Monitoring
Threats to Confidentiality and Privacy
Since remote patient monitoring systems continually send medical information over the internet, the risk of confidentiality breaches are much higher. Patient information can be hacked and devices can be stolen from people’s homes.
Failure in maintaining cybersecurity and effectively dealing with cyber threats can not only result in medical devices getting compromised but also can result in data losses, integrity, and availability, which can lead to potential risks to patients’ lives.
Remote patient monitoring relies on strong broadband connectivity. For medical facilities and patients located in rural areas and those who don’t have a stable connection, RPM won’t be as accessible.
Furthermore, elderly patients may have trouble operating RMP technology such as a smartphones or patient monitoring devices.
Technical Training and Adoption of RPM
The cost, training, and adoption of a remote monitoring system could be a challenge for many healthcare providers to implement. Proper training for doctors, nurses, and IT staff on using the system is crucial to its ROI. Some staff members may be slow to adopt advanced technology.
Additionally, as the adoption of RPM systems become more prevalent in the industry, less medical appointments may cut down on the need for additional nurses and doctors. The future of RPM could have an effect on staffing and job opportunities.
It can’t be denied that remote patient monitoring provides huge benefits to both medical professionals and patients. Despite the cons, every year new advancements in RPM are improving overall patient care, and the challenges that exist today will continue to evolve and be rectified.
Remote patient monitoring is the way of the future as it empowers people of all ages to be more in control of their health — and, most importantly, their lives.