Healthcare News & Insights

Remote patient monitoring: Impacting and improving post-hospital care

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services project healthcare spending, on average, will rise 5.5% annually until 2026. Something needs to be done, and one possible aid is remote patient monitoring (RPM) technology. In this guest post, Jiang Li, founder and CEO of a provider of connected healthcare solutions for wellness, patient care and telemedicine, will explain how RPM can help reduce hospital readmission rate and initial hospital visits for patients with chronic illnesses.

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As aging populations and rising healthcare costs become increasingly prevalent on a global scale, the need for reliable and effective RPM solutions has become more of an urgency than a luxury. To put this into perspective, two of the world’s top nations are experiencing population shifts that will cause strain on healthcare systems, and in turn, result in financial burdens on hospitals, healthcare providers and patients all at once. More than half of Japan’s population is over the age of 46, and baby boomers are expected to be 17% of the US population by 2020.

Additionally, hospital readmission rates are skyrocketing and costing hospitals billions of dollars – $41.3 billion for patients readmitted within 30 days of discharge, to be exact. Adversely, preventable hospital readmissions are costing insurance providers, such as Medicare, more than $17 billion annually, according to data from the Center for Health Information and Analysis. More than 20% of total patients in the US are readmitted within 30 days of hospital discharge following surgery or treatment.

Alleviate pain points

So, how can remote patient monitoring help alleviate these two pain points?

Not only can RPM help drive down hospital readmission rates, resulting in more cost-effective treatment, but it can also reduce initial hospital visits for patients with chronic illnesses, like diabetes, heart disease and even obesity. For instance, if RPM is enabled through reliable wearable technologies that transmit patient vitals and symptoms to medical hospitals and offices, it could serve to alert medical professionals of impending issues before the patient ever has to resort to hospital or emergency room services – initially or subsequently.

A new category of wearable health technologies, stamped with FDA-clearance for quality, along with the ease-of-use and wearability of a consumer device, is making it easier to monitor conditions that previously had been challenging when the patient is remote. In post-surgery, a continuous temperature monitor can aid in the early detection of infections, even at the wound site. For diabetic patients, IoT-connected high blood sugar level detectors can alert patients to changes in their daily insulin intake before a trip to the hospital is necessary. Epilepsy sufferers can rely on a symptom-monitoring smartband that tracks sleep and movement serving to alert doctors when a patient is at high risk for experiencing a seizure.

Overall, reliable, effective and accessible medical-grade wearable technology can cut down on hospital wait times, healthcare costs and improve the general well-being of patients of all ages and circumstances.

Factor causing hesitance

If RPM serves to change the world of health care in such a positive way, why aren’t all hospitals and medical professionals taking advantage of the solution?

While remote patient monitoring has been discussed for many years, the concept requires constant and innovative improvement to produce a positive ROI for all parties involved.

A few factors causing medical professionals to approach RPM with hesitance are:

  1. Much of the technology hasn’t been proven to be greatly reliable. Doctors and nurses are left unsure of whether the data they receive from the patient is accurate and interpretable enough to successfully diagnose or treat an issue.
  2. Remote patient monitoring is a relatively new concept in the grand scheme of things and continuous health monitoring companies are still figuring out what data is useful for medical professionals. As every illness or ailment is different for each patient, it’s difficult to develop a wearable that produces only the necessary data for each case. As the data gathered improves in quality and context, the algorithms to produce meaningful insights will also improve.
  3. Patient compliance is largely unreliable, as many wearable devices can be uncomfortable and even confusing for continuous wear. If a patient isn’t willing to wear the technology 100% of the prescribed time, it greatly diminishes the potential.

As developers and medical professionals work symbiotically to bring to life devices that enable real RPM, we will see an impact on readmission rates and drastically improve preventive, proactive care.

Jiang Li is the founder and CEO of VivaLNK, a provider of connected healthcare solutions for wellness, patient care, and telemedicine. 

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