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A Brief History of Remote Patient Monitoring

The pandemic made significant changes to the field of Telehealth, with more and more patients receiving care from the comfort of their own homes. Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM) has eased the burden on hospitals, paving the way for health care providers to electronically monitor patients in real-time, outside of a clinical setting. It’s a win-win for providers, patients, and reduces the burden on the hospital systems.


These systems of phone apps and electronic devices are increasingly sought after as effective and convenient tools for quality health care. In fact, Insider Intelligence estimates 70.6 million US patients, or 26.2% of the population, will use RPM tools by 2025.”


What are some examples of RPM?


The most common monitoring tools include diabetic blood glucose monitoring tools, digital blood pressure monitors, and weight scales. For the layperson, the use of smartwatches to monitor sleep, fitness, and even safety tools for people suffering from dementia are increasing in usage.


How Does RPM Work?


The health care provider decides what systems in the patient needs to be monitored and will choose the appropriate device and accompanying program. The results are monitored at home by the patient, connected via cellular data or Bluetooth technology. The information is captured and sent to the provider, who then decides what to do with the data.

Some patients may need additional training or video chat to know how to work their particular device, depending on the complexity of the device and their adherence to technology. Working with a RPM Program vendor can help smooth patient relations and make for easier adaptability for all parties involved.


What is the history of RPM?


Telehealth paved the way for RPM, starting in the 1800s when physicians discussed a patient’s case over the phone. In 1961, telehealth was employed in outer space to monitor EKG, temperature, and respiration in astronaut Alan Shepard.

In the 1970’s, Kaiser Foundation and Lockheed did a pilot study employing telehealth to track the health of people living in the rural area of the Papago Indian Reservation (currently known as the Tohono O’odham Indian Nation) in Arizona. Shortfalls were noted with the technology and especially the considerable amount of time that was devoted to video consultations, yet in all, it showed promise for future projects.

The 1990s brought the internet to some health care facilities. RPM devices have been used for some time in hospitals.

With the pandemic, there was an increased demand for RPM for home monitoring since patients could monitor themselves regularly and have peace of mind with the data. It also saved them from making unnecessary trips to the already overwhelmed hospitals, so the available beds could be saved for true emergencies.

In 2020, Medicaid began covering RPM in 26 states and Medicare increased its reimbursements after seeing the benefits.


How did the Pandemic drive acceptance of RPM?


In a 13,055 person study of patients with moderate Covid-19, conducted by researchers at Southern California Permanente Medical Group, patients were enrolled in a program. They were trained to monitor key vital signs as well as to enter daily symptoms into an app. With the use of a pulse oximeter and thermometer, a high number of patients were closely monitored, along with their symptoms. The results from the hospital were promising. The post-surveys showed that patient satisfaction and compliance was high.


Benefits of RPM:


The most obvious benefits are convenience, accuracy, and ease of use. Automation keeps patients compliant with monitoring and care, thus reducing hospital readmissions. It also saves doctors time and decreases a burden on the system, saving money.


Are There Challenges to Using RPM?


Devices are coming down in price though it is still not affordable to all patients. Access to the internet has improved in recent years yet there are still households that do not have adequate access to high-speed internet, which can be a disadvantage in getting certain patients on board.


Where are the Future Trends for RPM?


In all, 4 out of 5 Americans welcome RPM in their health care. Currently, it is being used effectively for post-surgical care, for monitoring chronic conditions, and it also includes reminders to patients to take medications. It can help keep people healthier longer, healthier, and receive care sooner, with the hopes of preventing even more serious conditions from developing.


As most patients prefer the comfort of their home to that of a hospital bed and they are now getting used to telehealth, combined with the data, the trend points to further growth, ingenuity, and expansion of RPM tools in caring for patients. Vetting and training patients, streamlining use, managing risks (such as cyber-attacks) are important criteria for the well-functioning of RPM devices. Smaller and more user-friendly devices are anticipated in the future, to increase accessibility and onboarding.


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