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While in-person office visits have always been the norm, sometimes, face-to-face interaction is not a necessity. The global pandemic spurred many care providers to harness the power of remotely and virtually caring for patients out of necessity. The outcome has proven just how effective these remote care models can be even in everyday healthcare environments. Remote patient monitoring (RPM) makes monitoring certain attributes of a patient’s health possible without the in-office encounter. Take a closer look at the pros and cons of remote patient monitoring.
What is Remote Patient Monitoring?
Remote patient monitoring is a type of healthcare that relies on technology to monitor patients outside clinical settings. RPM utilizes certain devices to gather and transmit information electronically from patients, at home or otherwise, to the overseeing physicians. Additionally, RPM is one vital system within the ever-advancing telemedicine sector of healthcare.
Benefits of Remote Patient Monitoring
According to projections discussed by Insider Intelligence, 26.2 percent of the country’s population (70.6 million patients in the U.S.) will benefit from RPM by the year 2025. Patients are accepting RPM as well. In a study published by MSI International, “American’s Perceptions of Remote Monitoring in Health,” four of five patients are in favor of RPM. Almost half said they very much favored incorporating RPM into their current medical care plans.
Remote patient monitoring technology allows for remote collection of vital information providers can use to make decisions about a patient’s care. Examples include blood pressure, heart rate, blood glucose levels, and oxygen saturation rates. Rapid, consistent access to this data shapes everything from making accurate diagnoses to making informed decisions about ongoing care and preventing re-admissions.
The benefits of remote monitoring are clear to physicians, but also to patients. The MSI study found that the benefits of remote monitoring were clear to patients. When asked to rank the benefits:
- 43% valued the convenience of RPM
- 39% valued the care efficiency of RPM
- 37% valued the control over personal health with RPM
- 36% valued the greater accuracy of diagnoses with RPM
- 36% valued the peace of mind that comes with RPM
Patient satisfaction rates with care also rise with the use of remote patient monitoring technology. After implementing RPM, the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) experienced patient satisfaction rates as high as 90 percent.
Pros of Remote Patient Monitoring
Adopting remote patient monitoring obviously yields several pertinent benefits for both the provider and the patient. Here’s a more in-depth look at the primary pros of RPM.
1. Care Providers Get Health Data in Real-Time
Whether monitoring the blood pressure of a critically ill patient or keeping tabs on glucose levels of a diabetic patient, RPM gives access to a wealth of data. Providers can use this data to make prescription adjustments, change a diagnosis, or otherwise offer more efficient care.
2. Convenience and Improved Quality of Life for Patients
Patients that take part in remote patient monitoring don’t have to spend as much time in a provider’s office or a hospital. This can be especially important when it comes to disease management or when a patient is critically ill. For example, a patient with a chronic illness can spend more time in the comfort of their home, with their loved ones, instead of in a hospital. This explains why 93 percent of surveyed physicians state they would take advantage of telehealth, including RPM, for chronic care management.
3. Healthcare Becomes More Accessible
Remote patient monitoring makes healthcare more accessible to patients that may have issues accessing care. For instance, an elderly patient with mobility issues and financial challenges still gets the monitoring they need. Much like other areas of telehealth broaden a physician’s reach to patients, RPM technology supports the same objective.
4. Remote Patient Monitoring Is Cost-Effective
One of the major perks of remote patient monitoring is cost reduction. Both the patient and care provider can see cost savings with RPM. Patients don’t have to visit a care provider as often, which saves money in itself. Care providers reduce rates of readmission. They can also reduce in-office staff hours due to reduced visits and make more effective diagnoses. As much as 17 percent of care providers in one study experienced reduced operational costs.
Cons of Remote Patient Monitoring
While RPM and remote patient management is rapidly growing as a new accepted standard in healthcare, there are a few cons to consider. Below is a closer look at the few downfalls and obstacles that come along with implementing an RPM system.
1. Accessibility or Connectivity Obstacles with Patients
For RPM devices to automatically transmit data in real-time, an internet connection may be required. Not all patients have access to good internet connectivity, which can pose accessibility issues. To negate this problem, several RPM device manufacturers are designing their devices to also transmit data via a cellular connection. Some devices are also built to save collected data for an extended period until the patient gets back to the doctor as well. However, this is not as effective as collecting data in real-time.
2. RPM Requires New Practice Software
With RPM, providers reap a profound amount of data for each patient. Once this data is collected, it needs to be routed, stored, and retrievable in the patient’s electronic health record (EHR). This may require the provider to adopt new software and technology or invest in cloud storage solutions for all the new data. Thankfully, the growth of RPM as a new standard of care means the best EHR systems integrate with the top-used RPM technologies.
3. Data Reliability Can Be Affected with Improper Use
In some cases, the reliability of data collected from patients can be affected by improper use. This is especially the case with certain types of wearables used in healthcare. The data should come from only the most trusted companies. Case in point, basic fitness-tracking wearables are known to have error margins of up to 25 percent.
In order to have the highest rate of reliability, both care providers and patients have to be educated on how to use different devices. The highest-regarded RPM providers actually make a point to ensure all-around education is easy to achieve.
4. Remote Patient Monitoring Is Reducing Readmission Rates
It is important to note, that RPM targets an extremely important area of medical care: RPM reduces rates of hospital readmission. Patient monitoring technology effectively reduces readmission rates for a number of reasons. One such reason is patients and providers can make better decisions about when readmission is actually necessary.
In KLAS studies of healthcare organizations that used RPM, 38 percent reduced rates of readmission among chronic care patients. UPMC also reported that Medicare members were 76 percent less likely to have to be readmitted for care with RPM.
Key Takeaways on the Benefits of Remote Monitoring
In the end, remote patient monitoring allows for more efficiency in healthcare. Care providers can broaden their reach with fewer resources. Patients get the advantage of better standards of care. Even though there are a few downfalls of RPM, most can easily be overcome. The benefits of RPM far outweigh any shortcomings, and RPM is bound to become an integral part of everyday care.