What is Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM)?
Remote patient monitoring (RPM) is a term used to describe the various digital technologies used to collect real-time data from patients. This data is securely transmitted to healthcare providers, who assess the data and make recommendations accordingly.
While the image generally associated with remote patient monitoring is a person covered in electrodes and wires, due to the technological advancements in the last 20 years, patients are now able to use devices that more closely resemble smartphones and smartwatches. These modern RPM technologies are small, discreet, and usually wireless.
RPM is most often used to monitor patients who have developed or are at risk of developing chronic diseases like diabetes, hypertension, COPD, and heart failure. RPM allows care providers to collect vital signs like heart rate, blood pressure, blood sugar, blood oxygen levels, and electrocardiograms remotely. By keeping track of markers consistently, providers can detect subtle changes and respond promptly, before the patient's health becomes significantly worse.
In rural and socioeconomically depressed areas, patients often do not have access to a doctor locally. Even when a doctor is located within a twenty-mile radius, these patients often cannot even afford to travel that distance. Those who do have access to transportation typically cannot afford the frequent in-person checkups that chronic diseases necessitate. RPM and telehealth—which means connecting patients to their healthcare provider remotely, usually via video chat, messaging, and email—have been successfully employed in these situations for nearly two decades, leading to significantly increased positive health outcomes.
Additionally, RPM is often used to monitor the elderly population or patients who have limited mobility, affording them access to a better quality of care than was previously available to them outside of an assisted living situation. This increased standard of care without barriers to access not only increases positive patient outcomes, but also fosters independence and peace of mind in the patient.
Patients who feel connected to their healthcare providers via telehealth and remote patient monitoring tend to be overall more compliant; they are more likely to keep their scheduled appointments, more likely to follow their doctor’s recommendations, more likely to check in promptly when they notice a change in their symptoms, and are thus more likely to have positive outcomes.
Because their data is transmitted remotely, these patients do not have the stress of tracking their own symptoms and keeping detailed records for their physician, freeing them up to focus on their recommended wellness protocols. They may additionally feel that working closely with their physician gives them an ally in their health, which may partially alleviate the isolation and emotional stress that is endemic in the chronically ill patient population.
In these ways, monitoring programs are ideal tools to help care providers achieve the "triple aim" of healthcare: they improve patient outcomes, increase access to care, and make health care systems more cost effective for patients, providers, and even insurers.
Because healthcare costs are steadily rising, and the incidence of chronic diseases is increasing as well, RPM and telehealth will likely be even more central as a modality for caring for the chronically ill, elderly, and disabled population in the coming decades.