Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM) is a growing trend in healthcare and it's no surprise that the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) is beginning to adopt this technology given the numerous benefits it offers for medical professionals, service providers and patients alike. There has been an earlier adoption of RPM in the US compared to the UK, partly facilitated by the different funding model which a predominantly private healthcare system operates on. But as human resources are being stretched further, and infrastructure is both costly and slow to keep pace with demand, the NHS is realising the potential of adopting digital solutions.
To provide more context, the current bed pressures in the Health Service have led to clinicians to rationalise ward capacity with many uncomfortable decisions being made about patients who will ‘probably be ok at home’. Compounded with the social care crisis, patients may be at risk of deteriorating without a backstop to trigger timely action.
Remote Patient Monitoring can help.
Several UK trusts have adopted virtual ward initiatives in order to discharge patients earlier than traditionally accepted, but this needs to be scaled up. Remote monitoring of key observations such as Blood Pressure, Oxygen Saturations, Heart Rate, Temperature and Blood Glucose can allow allied medical professionals to oversee the progress of patients at home in a similar way that they would in a hospital. Locally agreed and personalised parameters can be established as part of discharge planning to act as a safety net for patients not recovering as expected triggering readmission to hospital or a visit from their GP. Not only does this allow patients to recover in their own home environment but it frees bed spaces for patients sent home ‘at risk’ or prolonged waits on trolleys in the corridor.
Considering further uses, inpatients may also benefit from such devices to enable ward nurses to work at the top of their licence, freeing them up from routine 4 hourly observation rounds. We have trained our staff well in the UK but hold them back with tasks which take unnecessary physical time, diverting them away from other critical roles.
The benefit of RPM is not limited to the provision of acute medical care either. Considering that a staggering 84% of annual healthcare costs can be attributed to chronic illnesses in the United States (Source), any progress in managing this disease burden cannot be overlooked. There are reports of the improved management of chronic diseases for patients using remote monitoring in the community. Real time parameter monitoring in combination with early trend detection can trigger personalised alterations in management more efficiently than the current model. Not only does this reduce hospital clinic attendances but slows the progression of disease and the associated morbidity.
As healthcare innovation specialists here at Karve, the following guide highlights the 5 key benefits of adopting RPM in the UK Health Sector with the potential to greatly improve patient outcomes, optimise the patient experience, drive efficiency whilst simultaneously reducing costs.
Improved patient outcomes
Remote patient monitoring allows healthcare professionals to monitor patients' vital signs and other health information remotely, in real-time. This allows healthcare professionals to catch potential issues before they become serious, and to provide early intervention when necessary. This can lead to better patient outcomes, such as reduced hospital readmissions and improved quality of life.
Increased patient engagement
Remote patient monitoring encourages patients to take an active role in their own health and well-being. Patients can use RPM devices to track their own vital signs and other health parameters and even share this information with their healthcare team. Increasing patient involvement in this way can lead to better adherence to treatment plans and improved outcomes.
Remote patient monitoring can help to reduce costs for the NHS in several ways. By catching potential issues early and providing early intervention, RPM can help to reduce the number of hospital readmissions or polypharmacy, which are a significant cost for the NHS. Additionally, by enabling patients to manage their own health and well-being, RPM can reduce the need for outpatient clinic attendances, which can also help to reduce costs and release capacity.
Remote patient monitoring can help to increase efficiency in several ways. By providing healthcare professionals with real-time information about patients' vital signs and other health parameters, they can make more informed decisions about treatment. This can be combined with Artificial Intelligence programs to recognise trends and offer tailored treatment alterations for clinician approval. As a result, clinical interactions become more efficient.
List of common remote patient monitoring devices
Here is a list of the common remote patient monitoring devices that are being used in healthcare:
Blood pressure cuff
For measuring blood pressure and sending the data to a healthcare provider for monitoring and trend assessment. Remote monitoring can reduce the ‘white coat’ high blood pressure effect associated with clinical appointments.
For measuring blood sugar levels. This can be paired with insulin pumps to monitor and inform the dose of insulin a patient is requiring.
For tracking weight and sending the data to a healthcare provider for monitoring of adherence to treatment regimes.
For measuring oxygen levels and recognising deteriorating function which may require treatment alteration or hospital admission.
Heart rate monitors
For measuring heart rate and informing the efficacy of medications, detecting progression of chronic disease or active deterioration.
In conjunction with Oximeters can be useful to assess overall breathing function and compensatory mechanisms for deteriorating health which may otherwise be masked.
These devices dispense medication according to a pre-set schedule. This provides a safety function for confused patients to reduce medication mistakes such as omission or overdose.
Such as smartwatches and smart bands, these can track activity, heart rate, and sleep patterns and send the data to a healthcare provider for monitoring. A particular advantage of this might be to check efficacy and adherence for patients on prescribed weight loss programmes.
It's worth mentioning that most of these devices will require some form of data transfer (usually via the internet) to transmit the data to the healthcare providers. Another key area of development is the interoperability with AI algorithms which can detect specific trends in key parameters and send alerts if they detect any potential issues or recommendations for adjusted care.
Improved patient experience
Remote patient monitoring can help to improve the overall patient experience. Patients can use RPM devices to track their own vital signs and other health information, which can help them to better understand their own health and well-being. Additionally, by allowing patients to be more involved in their own care, RPM can lead to greater satisfaction with the healthcare experience.
Types of medical applications that RPM can support
There are a growing number of examples where remote patient monitoring can currently support that are either in use, or in the early stages of development. Here are some of the medical applications that RPM can assist with.
Patients with heart conditions can wear wearable devices that track their heart rate and rhythm, which can be monitored remotely by healthcare professionals.
Patients with diabetes can use wearable glucose monitors that send real-time data to their healthcare provider, allowing them to adjust their insulin dosage as needed and track resistance to current formulations.
Chronic disease management
Patients with conditions such as COPD, asthma, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) can use remote monitoring devices to track their symptoms and medication adherence, allowing their healthcare provider to adjust their treatment plan as needed.
Patients can use smart pill bottles that track when they take their medication and send reminders to them when it's time to take a dose. This helps patients stay on schedule and adhere to their medication regimen.
Blood pressure monitoring
Wearable devices and smart home blood pressure monitors can track a patient's blood pressure and send the data to healthcare providers who can monitor the patient's progress and make adjustments as needed.
Remote patient monitoring technology can also be used to conduct virtual consultations between patients and healthcare providers, allowing patients to receive care remotely.
In-home diagnostic tests
For some conditions that require frequent checkup, instead of going to the clinic frequently, patients can use in-home diagnostic devices like spirometers, peak flow metres, and other diagnostic equipment to gather data that can be analysed remotely by healthcare professionals.
Remote Patient Monitoring has the potential to greatly benefit the UK’s National Health Service. By providing healthcare professionals with real-time information about their patients in numerous settings, encouraging patients to take an active role in their own health and well-being, we can help create a more efficient, effective, and patient-centred healthcare system, with overall cost savings to the taxpayer.