When telehealth exploded during the COVID-19 pandemic, remote patient monitoring in healthcare was in the spotlight like never before. Monitoring patients via video calls and wearables once seemed like a far-off possibility, but it is rapidly becoming a must-have option for patients who have grown accustomed to the convenience of remote patient monitoring (RMP). With many advances in technology on the horizon, remote patient monitoring is fast becoming a staple of the modern healthcare experience.
How is remote patient monitoring used?
Remote patient monitoring refers to doctors monitoring patients without being physically present with them. It may be active, such as having a consultation with a doctor over phone or video, or passive, such as monitoring a patient’s blood oxygen levels or glucose levels for changes via wearable devices.
Remote patient monitoring is especially beneficial for chronic health conditions that require constant observation. Some of these conditions include heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, asthma, Alzheimer’s and dementia, and more. As the technology progresses, more and more applications are being explored.
There were 29.1 million users of remote patient monitoring in 2020 and 39.9 million in 2021. That number is forecasted to reach as high as 70.6 million users in 2025, according to estimates by Insider Intelligence. All these users represent a big financial opportunity for healthcare and tech companies. In fact, Markets and Markets estimates that the global RPM market will be worth over $1.7 billion by 2027.
Trends in remote patient monitoring
Remote patient monitoring is evolving with each passing year, and the industry will continue to grow as it becomes more and more entrenched. There are four main trends that will shape remote patient monitoring in the near future: telehealth acceptance among patients and clinicians, advances in wearable technology, data centralizations, and patient privacy concerns.
Prior to the pandemic, both patients and doctors resisted the idea of remote patient care. It seemed strange that the same quality of care could be delivered via video call or over the phone. However, the quick acceleration of telehealth appointments during the pandemic greatly increased both patients’ and clinicians’ comfort with it.
Remote patient monitoring reduces the risk of both clinicians and patients contracting communicable infectious diseases. It also saves both parties the hassle and expense of having to commute and makes it easier for patients to fit telehealth appointments into their busy days without taking as much time off work. While in-person care will never be replaced entirely, the convenience of telehealth will continue to help it grow.
As wearables get smaller and slimmer with each passing year, it becomes much easier to get consumers to wear them. They’re also becoming more affordable, further lowering the barrier to entry. As the technology continues to improve, the readings will only get more accurate, and the sensors will only get smaller. Someday soon, you won’t even need to buy separate healthcare wearables: clothes and other ordinary objects embedded with these health sensors will be commonplace.
Right now, most remote patient monitoring data is collected by separate, specialized devices. You need one device for your blood sugar, one for your blood oxygen levels, and so on. This means that each patient’s healthcare data is spread out across multiple platforms owned by different remote patient monitoring companies, making it tough to bring it together.
As the RPM industry matures, centralization of this data will occur through three mechanisms. On the hardware side, these wearables will develop the ability to monitor multiple things at once, meaning that data will be collected through fewer channels. On the software side, more integrations will be developed that allows the various platforms to share data with one another. And finally, the eventual consolidation of small industry players into larger corporations will further spur data centralization.
Patient data privacy
More wearables collecting more data means more potential for patient privacy issues, including data breaches. This lack of data privacy is part of what made both patients and clinicians hesitant to use these systems, and lawmakers are only just now beginning to pass laws that can catch up with the tech. As RPM technology progresses, expect to see more and more people raising concerns about healthcare data privacy in this space.
Larger healthcare entities are known for lagging behind, and this is as true for remote patient monitoring as anything else. In fact, some hospitals only made the migration to electronic health records a couple years ago, making RPM a bit of a stretch for them. Right now, most of the innovation in RPM is coming from smaller, more nimble companies that have more of a tech background.
However, remote patient monitoring now has momentum behind it, and hospitals are beginning to explore more fully integrating RPM into their care offerings. In addition, more health insurance companies will likely begin to cover remote patient monitoring devices and services as they realize how it can lower overall patient costs thanks to early detection.
Do you use remote patient monitoring in your practice? Have an opinion on remote patient monitoring and how it can or can’t impact patient care? Let us know in the comments.
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