Remote Patient Monitoring & How Technology is Changing Healthcare


The COVID-19 pandemic has pushed the adoption and use of remote patient monitoring devices significantly. The use of Telemedicine, which includes Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM) devices, has gone up from approximately 15% of physicians using telemedicine in 2018-2019 to almost 90% in 2021.

An online article of the Harvard Medical School states that in the US nearly 50 million people currently use such "remote patient monitoring" devices.

What are remote patient monitoring devices?

Remote patient monitoring (RPM) is a subcategory within homecare telehealth solutions. Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM) allows healthcare providers to monitor patients outside of the traditional healthcare setting. Examples of Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM) devices are blood pressure monitors, pulse oximeters, blood glucose meters, sensors, etc. The data collected is then electronically transferred to the healthcare provider. Automated workflows and feedback can be part of this data collection as well as warnings or visualisations linked to the data.

Impact on clinicians and patients

Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM) has several benefits for both healthcare providers as well as patients. For clinicians, it allows them to monitor more patients over a longer period of time. There is less need for in-person consultations for follow up, which allows clinicians to spend more time on other tasks.

For patients, not needing to travel that often to the hospital also reduces the burden on them. Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM) also increases patient engagement and adherence to their treatment plan.

Risks and challenges related to Remote Patient Monitoring

The advantage of not needing to follow up every patient every time with an in-person visit also comes with its challenges. Both the clinician as well as the patient needs to understand how the Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM) device needs to be used. It's important that patients know what to do and what not to do to ensure correct data collection.

It is also important that there are clear and correct escalation protocols when the data collected reveals the need for urgent further follow up. Thresholds for such escalation needs to be set up carefully. It's important to take this aspect into account when designing a Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM) device.

Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM) devices allow for more patients to be monitored and more data collection. However, this comes with the challenge that the healthcare facilities and the healthcare providers themselves need to know how to handle all that data. Users of such systems need to be trained on the system, how to monitor the data or respond to abnormal values. Patients on their part also need to know what to do in case they are the ones that would receive warnings on abnormal values.

Patient safety concerns when implementing Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM) include the risk of clinical misdiagnosis or failure to identify when patients need attention from providers. In both these cases, developing robust processes and clear guidelines for providers will help mitigate the risk of patient safety issues. Clear protocols for identifying appropriate patients to use RPM are key, as well as having escalation protocols so that patients with abnormal results are appropriately referred for higher levels of care or have their symptoms managed. Understanding each individual patient’s typical disposition and variability is important as well. Ideally, thresholds for flagging abnormal results should be individualized for each patient.

Given the vast amount of data that can be collected, it is crucial to ensure that sufficient trained staff are available to monitor patient status and maintain direct communication with patients. Since Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM) processes depend on data transmitted by patients, there is a risk of clinical misdiagnosis if patients do not use medical devices correctly or follow data collection protocols properly. To ensure devices are used correctly and avoid inaccurate readings, organizations should establish a robust patient education system that provides feedback to patients. This education should clearly outline how clinicians will manage abnormal values and define what situations would require the patient to respond independently as an emergency.

Another critical aspects that deserves a lot of attention during the design of a Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM) device is cybersecurity. The data collected and transmitted is sensitive patient data that needs to be protected. Ensuring robust protection mechanisms is very important. This comes together with the challenge of interoperability of the Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM) system and the rest of the hospital systems.

Future trends of Remote Patient Monitoring

Remote Patient Monitoring is far from new. Actually, it could be tracked back to 1876, when Alexander Graham Bell managed to have the first telephone conversation.

Ever since, the landscape of medical care has changed dramatically. Currently, artificial intelligence has boomed and this also has an impact on Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM).

AI algorithms and predictive analytics will be integrated in Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM) systems. This proactive approach could allow healthcare providers to react much faster, improving patient outcomes.

Improved telecommunication possibilities and more secure platforms will provide possibilities for virtual consultations.

When it comes to chronic disease management, Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM)provides a way for continuous follow up, but also increases the commitment and adherence of patients to their own treatment plan. Less need for hospital visits also reduces the strain on healthcare resources.

Mental health problems are on the rise. Also here there is a clear role for Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM). Virtual mental health consultations, remote therapy sessions, and digital mental health tools will become integral components of remote care strategies. This will not only improve the treatment of patients but can also reduce the stigma that is currently still put on mental health problems.

There is a true opportunity with Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM) systems to bring together patients and healthcare providers. RPM platforms can evolve to a place where patients can be educated on their specific health problem and be empowered to improve their lifestyle. They can see and monitor their own data, be in contact with their healthcare provider and feel engaged to ensure that there is a proper follow up.

Of course, with future evolution in remote patient monitoring, also the need for further enhanced data protection remains a must. Clear guidances and regulations on that end will also keep expanding and manufacturers of Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM) systems will need to ensure they stay compliant. Learn more about Matrix Requirements ALM and QMS solutions and how we can help you launch your Remote Patient Monitoring medical device to market.

About the Author
Ann Vankrunkelsven
RA/QA Manager