For older patients and those living in rural areas, emerging remote patient monitoring technology can help increase access to healthcare.
The crisis in American healthcare isn’t one of quality, but rather one of access, both literally and in terms of cost. A recent report found that 77 percent of senior citizens in America are worried about rising healthcare costs, while the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that 78 percent of Americans over the age of 55 have at least one chronic medical condition. Paying for medical care is one thing — some Americans have trouble even locating that care. Whereas, on average, urban areas offer more than 53 physicians per 100,000 people, rural areas only average a little under 40.
To address these challenges, many healthcare systems are exploring a new option. “Remote patient monitoring (RPM) allows you and your care provider to manage your health condition outside of the hospital or doctor’s office,” says Joe Kiani, founder and CEO of Masimo, a global medical technology innovator. “It uses advanced noninvasive medical grade monitoring technology to keep track of your health from the comfort of your home.”
Greater access, lower cost
RPM is a suite of technologies such as wearable devices tracking things like blood pressure or even a patient’s weight, “smart” pill bottles that track prescription adherence, and telehealth solutions like videoconferencing devices that allow physicians to check in with patients without physical contact.
One problem that RPM can help address is hospital readmission. When a patient is discharged from the hospital after treatment, they typically still require care, and too often they wind up being readmitted, often for minor symptoms such as dizziness or blood pressure spikes. It’s estimated that unplanned hospital readmissions cost up to $20 billion annually, but RPM could be utilized to eliminate those readmissions and lower the overall cost of care.
“Remote monitoring can help people more easily manage some health conditions at home while they remain under the watchful eye of a healthcare professional,” Kiani says. But that care has to be of the highest quality. “To be effective, RPM must be accurate and reliable. It must combine that same hospital-grade performance with the simplicity and convenience expected of any high-quality home-use product.”
This is especially important for senior citizens, Kiani says, who often struggle with how expensive and time-consuming it is to manage their chronic conditions. RPM can also bring top-quality healthcare to rural areas that lack access to hospitals and other resources. These more remote communities have a higher rate of chronic diseases, and RPM can be used to monitor these conditions and avoid unexpected health crises in areas where people often have to travel long distances just to see a physician.
The new normal
The COVID-19 pandemic is changing daily life for everyone, and many of these changes may well become permanent. One example is the use of RPM. “The pandemic has made RPM a must, now. The pandemic caused a surge in hospitals at a time they didn’t have sufficient personal protection equipment (PPE) to protect themselves. Patients that had COVID-19 or other health problems that required constant surveillance but didn’t need ICU-level care were sent home with a remote monitor they could trust. People also had an understandable reluctance to visit those spaces unless absolutely necessary, to minimize contact with potentially infected patients and areas. Products like Masimo safetyNet became essential, and as they become more popular and patients become more comfortable with them, remote monitoring and telehealth solutions are likely to become increasingly commonplace, long after the pandemic ends.” In fact, 88 percent of healthcare providers are planning to, or have already launched RPM programs for high-risk, chronically ill patients.
For Kiani, one thing is certain. “Remote patient monitoring has the potential to significantly improve healthcare delivery — and patient outcomes — by making care more accessible, more convenient, and less expensive.”