As the Covid-19 pandemic surges worldwide, the healthcare industry is in the face of a metamorphosis. SOPs (standard operating procedures) of social distancing are employed in every workstation and institution, with precautionary measures implemented. Medical practitioners and clinicians are operating remotely enlarging the telehealth platform for acute illnesses, chronic diseases, and Covid-19 patients. Remote healthcare services were a profitable industry before the pandemic and proceed to grow in the future too.
This technological revolution of the remote healthcare industry is fortifying the pillars of high-quality healthcare and comfort of patients from their homes, through constant remote monitoring and assistance in medication and therapy.
What is remote patient monitoring?
Telehealth platforms are vast.
They range from live videos and two-way connections to medical practitioners communicating the medical history of patients to experts and consultants. Remote patient monitoring (RPM) is the most popular and widespread telehealth platform. Vital signs and the condition of the patient are regulated and the data is transmitted to the healthcare center.
In addition to this, RPM tools are assisted with Artificial intelligence-powered technology with video and audio conferences between the patient and physician, and device-agnostic systems and private portable or wearable smart gadgets that document a patient’s health condition.
Remote patient monitoring permits clinicians to monitor the prognosis of sicknesses and diseases, triage the symptoms of patients remotely and make patients virtually aware to review their medication and therapy schedules and to execute self-care. Especially in this pandemic, this virtual platform has allowed medical practitioners to monitor and oversee biological parameters such as temperature levels, heartbeat rates, and blood pressure and identify falls and accidents of people, and inform the relevant clinician and relatives of the misfortune.
How did remote patient monitoring originate?
Remote patient monitoring is not a novel healthcare service. According to Neoteryx, the blood micro-sampling innovator, remote patient monitoring probably originated in the mid-1800s when two clinicians consulted over the telephone.
In 1924, the contemplative cover of Radio News magazine displayed the harnessing of the radio for medical consultations and deliberations. As the use of radio continued and there were advancements in technological platforms, in 1948, it was documented that a physician sent X-radiation (X-ray) images over telephone wires to another practitioner in Pennsylvania.
In 1959 and 1960, neurological examinations were virtually communicated to doctors for consultations and psychogenic consultations were sent via closed-circuit television. By the 1960s, an archaic electrocardiogram (EKG), an inhalation sensor, a blood pressure regulating apparatus, and a thermometer were enabled to accompany astronauts in space for orbital flights. While EKGs were conveyed over telephone wires and space technology was amid advancement, the foundation for the development of remote monitoring programs was being laid.
As the years went on, transmitting X-ray images became the norm. In the late 1900s, it was the era of the internet, leaving the primitive version of medicine behind. Now, RPM tools have exceeded our expectations and vision. RPM is no more examinations and consultations being transmitted over obsolete television circuits and radios. Patients who are old or young, pregnant or not, have chronic or acute illnesses can stay in their homes, and receive good quality remote healthcare services. Furthermore, micro-sampling is enhanced to great lengths. Blood work can easily be remotely executed through micro-sampling, where the blood is gathered and sent to the healthcare center and laboratory.
Current remote patient monitoring practices
In the status quo, Remote Patient Monitoring tools harness technology to trace the condition of a patient in outpatient environments. RPM tools employ wired or wireless measurement devices such as biosensors, blood pressure cuffs, temperature checks, and pulse oximeters, and device-agnostic healthcare alarm systems, with a GPS for patients, especially older adults. These systems are progressing into artificial intelligence-powered medical care platforms, with biometric sensors, IoMT (Internet of Medical Things) sensors, and with 24/7 monitoring of patients.
RPM has also transformed into an educational model, empowering people with knowledge, awareness, support, and feedback on their condition, ailments, and treatments. According to the Journal of Diabetes & Metabolic Disorders, the survey substantiated that RPM tools have a critical function in the reduction of hemoglobin glycogen levels in type 2 diabetic patients. For high-risk patients, particularly those with severe or terminal illnesses, personalized remote care will revamp the landscape of healthcare. With the digitization of patient records, doctors can infer and are cognizant of remedial measures to decrease the usual visits of patients, by acquiring device-agnostic systems with an exemplary clinical monitoring network accessible in their homes. Moreover, inventive implanted medical apparatus can continuously oversee, report, communicate, and perceive the patient’s vital signs, recognizable health conditions, and administer life-saving treatment to a patient.
An additional consumer of RPM technology includes white-collar employees who have a fast-paced life. They have accelerated transmission of information with their clinicians about their test results, or typical medical guidance. Furthermore, now with the age of globalization, patients are not troubled and concerned about the confidentiality and protection of their data. Telehealth enterprises adhere to the terms of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA Law), which evades any confidential and personal information from being uncovered.
Read more on Health and Safety Questions to Ask at Work
RPM Tools in the future
As concerns are raised on the accuracy of diagnostic devices and the privacy of data in Remote patient monitoring technology, challenges continue to flood the telehealth industry. However, some practices are asserted to be consequential and substantial, especially in the pandemic. Firstly, RPM systems on tablet-based technology must have a few healthcare and wellness applications. These systems must have no expense attached to them, and they must be convenient and simplistic to handle.
These mobile devices must be consumer-friendly, with artificial intelligence-powered technology, and must not have any data from previous patients. Moreover, healthcare professionals and providers, patients, and patients’ families must be educated on how the systems must be managed through the provision of basic knowledge from online platforms, such as websites, emails, or soft-copy pamphlets, as well as physical brochures.
As remote patient monitoring has been hastened, it has validated itself as an effective apparatus to encourage physicians to triage new cases depending on the patient’s circumstance. This stimulates a personalized measure of healthcare. Through Current Procedural Terminology (CPT) codes remote patient monitoring can be compensated. CPT is a medical decree that records medical, surgical, and diagnostic procedures for organizations such as healthcare practitioners and reimbursement providers. Hence, as RPM grows into a $34 billion industry, consumers and providers will brighten the horizons for remote patient monitoring.
Kelton High is a Social Sciences undergraduate who majored in International Relations, with a budding interest in qualitative research. He has previously worked at Transparency International.