As the COVID-19 pandemic leads to hospitals facing an acute shortage of beds and resources, freeing up space for critical patients has become crucial. This has led to hospitals implementing Remote Patient Monitoring solutions to keep track of a patient’s health without requiring them physically visit a hospital or health care organizations.
What is Remote Patient Monitoring?
Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM) utilizes different digital technologies to collect health data from patients at disparate locations and electronically transmit the information to health care providers for assessment. This data is gathered through monitoring devices such as a glucometer, blood pressure monitors and weight scales. These solutions come under the category of telehealth, which refers to the industry that utilizes this type of health care. RPM technology includes software that are used by doctors to keep track of their patients and to check a patient’s health report. Doctors can access a dashboard that showcases the data for all their patients under the RPM program.
Although modern RPM technology first came out in the 1960s, the last decade has seen major technological advancements. With advanced technology, doctors can now not only track their patients, but also utilize this data to predict which social determinants affect a patient’s health so that doctors can treat their patients effectively. Companies often offer their own proprietary RPM devices which can be integrated with their RPM software as well as with third-party software. Companies like Somatix have smartwatches that collect patient's vital data automatically every few hours.
How Has COVID-19 Impacted the Market?
RPM platforms and devices were sparsely used by health care providers. However, as the whole world is currently adjusting to the ‘new normal’, many health care organizations are starting to realize the benefits of RPM technology. The telehealth market in the USA is expected to grow by 25% to 30% over the next five years in the aftermath of to the COVID-19 pandemic. Among the various telehealth solutions, RPM has gained the most traction as it can be used to monitor less critical COVID-19 patients as well as the elderly, who are more vulnerable to the virus.
North America and Europe have been among the worst affected regions for COVID-19 and both regions are implementing RPM solutions to flatten the curve. The U.S. FDA has issued several guidelines for utilizing RPM devices and software for facilitating the management of patients. In March 2020, the United States Congress also announced a mandatory funding authorization for $500 Million over 10 years to be used towards a remote health care program. This funding is an indicator that the U.S. government is interested in expanding RPM across their health care institutions.
European telehealth companies such as SidekickHealth, a Swedish company, recently provided the emergency management authorities in Iceland with a COVID-19 program to remotely monitor infected individuals. They installed an application on their mobile devices, which allowed patients to self-report a panel of symptoms and measurements on a predefined schedule, multiple times a day if needed. Meanwhile healthcare professionals could monitor and manage patients through a dashboard, which alerted them when patients started showing common COVID-19 symptoms.
Outlook for the Future
An important aspect of RPM technologies is the connectivity utilized by devices that pass on vital data to the RPM platform. This connectivity is often offered via cellular, Bluetooth, or Wi-Fi, by telecommunication companies such as AT&T, Vodafone, Verizon and Sprint.
AT&T partnered with VitalTech to provide free telehealth services through the VitalCare platform. In this partnership, AT&T will be responsible for connectivity and data analytics while VitalTech will be responsible for the platform. This partnership is an indicator that telecommunication companies might establish partnerships to become an end-to-end service provider of connected care and Remote Patient Monitoring.
To compete with such large organizations, pure-play RPM companies should utilize their years of experience and expand their portfolio of services. For example, they can work towards providing guidance, training and support to health care organizations or start providing significant incentives on large-scale deployments. This will allow RPM companies to compete with large scale organizations who may not have the same level of expertise at such an earlier stage.
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Biju has over 20 years of experience – both as a management consultant and as a practitioner – working with clients across industries located in the US, Europe and Asia.
At GEP, he is responsible for driving business results for clients – managing global GEP teams and working very closely with client leadership.LET'S TALK