With events like the COVID-19 pandemic impacting healthcare systems around the globe, remote patient monitoring has become a popular talking point.
Though the pandemic has forced healthcare providers and medical device organizations to innovate and rethink old systems, the remote patient monitoring market has been gaining steam for some time thanks to advances in sensing, wireless, and cybersecurity technology.
A recent analysis indicated that the remote patient monitoring device market is expected to exceed $1.6 billion by 2026.
In this blog post, we’ll discuss remote patient monitoring systems and how they’re helping shape the future of healthcare.
What are the different types of patient monitoring systems?
Before we discuss the different types of patient monitoring systems, it will be useful to define what a patient monitoring system is.
When we say patient monitoring system, we mean any set of technology and/or processes used to by healthcare providers to monitor key biological indicators.
An electrocardiography (“ECG”) machine that enables physicians to monitor the vital signs of the heart is an example of a patient monitoring system.
With this definition in mind, we can turn our attention to the different forms of patient monitoring systems available.
Though there are many types of patient monitoring systems (e.g., wireless, portable, real-time, continuous, etc.) they are typically sorted into two broad categories: bedside patient monitoring systems and remote patient monitoring systems.
Bedside Patient Monitoring Systems
Bedside patient monitoring systems (sometimes referred to as “hospital patient monitoring systems”) are the systems used to monitor patients within the walls of the hospital or doctor’s office.
The collection of chords, sensors, and screens that surround a patient’s bed within the hospital characterizes the typical bedside patient monitoring system.
Technology like the ECG machine mentioned earlier is a familiar example of a bedside patient monitoring system.
Remote Patient Monitoring Systems
Unlike bedside patient monitoring systems, remote patient monitoring systems (sometimes referred to as “home patient monitoring systems”) are used to monitor patients outside of the hospital (“remotely”).
A smartwatch that sends data about a patient’s heart activity to a doctor while the patient is at the grocery store is an example of a remote version of the aforementioned ECG machine.
What is a remote patient monitoring system?
As mentioned previously, a remote patient monitoring system is any system that enables healthcare providers to monitor a patient’s health outside of the hospital or doctor’s office.
Remote patient monitoring systems should not be confused with “portable patient monitoring systems” or “wireless patient monitoring systems.”
As the name implies, a portable patient monitoring system is one that can be easily moved with the patient, whereas a wireless patient monitoring system is one that can transmit data from a device to a computer without the use of a cord.
Though often used synonymously, “portable patient monitoring systems” are not the same as remote monitoring systems as a portable monitoring system can refer to devices used within or outside of a hospital—think of a patient wearing a heart monitor during a physical therapy session following surgery.
Similarly, “wireless patient monitoring systems” are not synonymous with remote patient monitoring because patient monitoring systems within a hospital may also be wireless—the data from an ECG machine may be wirelessly transmitted to a doctor’s laptop or tablet where it is displayed in a real-time dashboard.
What are some of the benefits of remote patient monitoring?
As remote patient monitoring is an emerging field, new benefits are continually being found.
So, for the sake of brevity, we’ll focus on the three that seem to be driving growth within the field: reduced time in the hospital, decreased readmission and increased prevention of medical emergencies among older patients, and increased freedom for patients.
Reduced Time in the Hospital
Postoperative monitoring can be a time-intensive process for both physicians and patients alike.
Not only must a patient be monitored directly after an operation, follow-ups and check-ins may be required for months into the future.
Though healthcare providers are constantly looking for ways to reduce the time patients spend in the hospital, the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic has put extra-pressure on clinicians to mitigate potential viral exposure by decreasing contact time even further.
Remote patient monitoring is one of the ways healthcare providers are tackling this problem.
By enabling physicians to monitor their patients outside of the hospital or doctor’s office, they reduce the time patients spend in either of those places without risking patient health.
Decreased Readmission and Increased Prevention of Medical Emergencies Among Older Patients
As we age we become susceptible to healthcare problems we didn’t need to worry about when we were younger.
For this reason, older patients tend to need more care and attention than younger patients.
Remote patient monitoring is one method healthcare providers are using to keep up with the needs of older patients.
In fact, new evidence is emerging that even basic forms of remote patient monitoring (like telemedicine) can help decrease readmission and prevent medical emergencies among older patients.
Increased Freedom for Patients
Spending time in a hospital means putting your normal life on hold.
A patient being monitored in a hospital does not have the ability to perform daily activities.
On the surface, this may not seem as important as the other benefits, but it is significant for both the patient and the doctor.
For the patient, this limitation means less freedom—they can’t spend time doing chores around the house, working, helping their loved ones, etc.
For doctors, not being able to monitor patients who are living their “everyday” lives can deprive them of insight that may be valuable for diagnosis or treatment.
However, with remote patient monitoring devices like smartwatches, patients have the freedom to perform their daily activities and doctors have the ability to glean information from these activities that can improve the patient’s health.
What are some remote patient use cases?
Though there are many potential modalities where remote patient monitoring can be used, there are three specific use cases where it shows potential to shape the future of diagnosis and treatment: diabetes care, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (“COPD”) monitoring, and peritoneal dialysis.
More than 34 million people in the United States have diabetes, according to the Center for Disease Control.
Because of the tremendous cost of diabetes on both patients and healthcare providers, the field of diabetes care has been a hotbed for remote patient monitoring innovation.
Within the diabetes care realm, remote patient monitoring is being used to improve detection of blood glucose problems and other indicators of health deterioration that can lead to hospitalization.
According to the World Health Organization, COPD is responsible for an estimated 5% of all global deaths.
It’s estimated that “more than 70% of COPD-related healthcare costs are consequences of emergency and hospital stays for the treatment of exacerbations.”
Though still in the early phases, continuous remote patient monitoring of COPD patients’ physiological vitals is showing promise in predicting potential exacerbations, improving the quality of patient care, and lowering overall healthcare costs.
If a kidney fails, it can no longer perform its job of removing waste from the blood.
For some patients with kidney failure, peritoneal dialysis is an option that enables them to administer dialysis at home.
Unfortunately, the ability to administer dialysis at home comes with the risk that patients may not adhere to or comply with their prescription.
Non-compliance with peritoneal dialysis prescriptions can be extremely dangerous to a patient’s health.
For this reason, healthcare providers are beginning to tap into remote patient monitoring technology to track patients and detect potential non-compliance.
Remote patient monitoring of peritoneal dialysis patients is showing promise in lowering hospitalization rates and reducing the amount of time hospitalized patients stay in the hospital.
The challenge of developing remote patient monitoring devices.
Remote patient monitoring devices live at the intersection of many technical disciplines.
At a high level, they often require advanced sensors, cutting-edge wireless technology, state-of-the-art cybersecurity systems, and complex interconnect solutions.
The web of complexity that comes with developing a remote patient monitoring device can be extremely difficult to navigate.
For this reason, we recommend speaking to an expert who specializes in developing and manufacturing patient monitoring technology before venturing down the pathway alone.
Remote patient monitoring is a promising field for healthcare providers and medical device companies alike.
Though we’ve tried to provide an interesting overview of this exciting market, there is still much more that can be said about remote patient monitoring systems and their applications throughout the healthcare industry.
If you are developing a remote patient monitoring device and want to understand some of the complexities of creating an interconnect solution that can power it, download our ebook: