Remote Patient Monitoring

Photo: Bernard Goldbach

Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM) offers a viable solution to healthcare systems which were not originally designed to cater to the ever increasing demands of chronic diseases.

Driven by rising number of chronic conditions and aging population, and enabled by technological and medical advances, Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM) offers a viable solution to healthcare systems which were not originally designed to cater to the ever increasing demands of chronic diseases.. RPM experts believe that if implemented correctly it can be a useful tool in containing healthcare expenditure, reducing waiting times and avoidable hospitalization, and improving quality of care. RPM refers to the adoption of telecommunication and computer technology to remotely monitor and manage a wide range of health conditions. The Center for Technology and Aging uses a five-step model to describe the full RPM process:

  • RPM devices measure patient vital sign data and collect responses to health related questions
  • Data is transmitted to health providers, caregivers and third parties through wireless technologies, Bluetooth, and mobile phones
  • Data is evaluated to determine possible areas of concern
  • Health providers, caregivers, third parties and patients are notified of potential problems
  • If required, intervention takes place

Remote Patient Monitoring improves coordination along the continuum of care and facilitates transition from hospital to home care. Enhanced post-acute care management helps reduce ER visits and avoidable hospital readmission rates, therefore saving billions to health systems worldwide.

Devices range in level of automation and patient involvement. Finding an optimal mix is important – higher level of automation (passive data collection) prevent mistakes and could potentially lead to richer and more accurate patient information, whereas higher level of patient involvement (active data collection) can dramatically improve adherence to treatment, self-management and self-efficacy.

Chronic diseases such as diabetes (by far the largest segment), asthma, cardiac arrhythmia, sleep apnea and others are the most common remotely monitored conditions, according to a Berg Insight research paper. The World Health Organization estimates that chronic diseases account for 63% of all deaths worldwide. They incur significant costs and reduce quality of life, however, if carefully monitored and managed patients can live long, active lives. RPM systems provide early warning if health deteriorates, enable patients and lower-skilled caregivers to provide highly skilled care, encourage self-care and adherence to treatment and reduce hospital stay.

Sophisticated RPM technologies that monitor location, balance and gait allow caregivers and health providers to remotely assess mobility and safety of patients, detect fall accidents and wandering, and provide immediate assistance if necessary. Especially high among older adults, Alzheimer and dementia patients, falls and wandering incidents are associated with high healthcare costs and negative health outcomes such as injuries and death. RMP enhances patient mobility and independence, and increase satisfaction with care provided.

Healthcare market research Kalorama Information predicts that the remote and wireless patient monitoring market will grow from $6 billion in 2011 to more than $18 billion by 2014 (approximately 26%), continuously driven by diversity of products available, number of health conditions that require monitoring, and growing demand for compact portable monitoring products. Dramatic growth is expected in the market for wearable wireless devices as well, exceeding 100 million units by 2016, according to ABI research. RMP is also the main reason behind the estimated 24% growth in the global mobile health application market, according to Technavio. Mobile monitoring has the potential to realize healthcare cost savings between $1.96 billion and $5.83 billion by 2014, mainly in developed countries such as US and Canada.

Key players on the market include companies such as Philips, Honeywell, Bosch, Intel-GE Care Innovation,  Bayer, Biotronik, Medtronik, ResMed, EmFinders and others. Constant innovations in the RMP area hold exciting promise for the future.  A recent example is the development of a new ‘electronic skin’ technology that uses body sensors to directly connect with healthcare providers, driving dramatic improvements in real-time and preventative care. Cost-effectiveness and health benefits of RPM are attracting an increasing number of decision makers. Key factors that will continue to shape industry’s future include public receptivity, legal, regulatory and reimbursement issues.