How IoT Can Improve Data Access for Remote Patient Monitoring Solutions

In addition to wearability and data quality, timely data access is a key determining factor in the success of Remote Patient Monitoring health care solutions. Robust IoT architecture can enhance data access outcomes.

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image of stethoscope and iphone

Most of us have (or at least know someone who has) undergone surgery at a hospital. You know the drill—admitted, prepped, surgery, in-hospital recovery, discharged. Here’s something far fewer people know: 20 percent of these surgery patients are readmitted to the hospital within just 30 days of initial discharge.

Readmission not only frustrates patients, doctors, and hospitals; it also costs the industry billions of dollars every year. If we spend so much time and money on in-hospital patient care, why aren’t we putting the same level of care into a patient’s recovery once they go home to improve the lousy 20 percent readmission rate?

Fortunately, high readmission rates are a problem that IoT and connected devices have the potential to help solve.

Remote Patient Monitoring Systems Can Improve Readmission Rates

I wrote previously about how one of the most rapidly growing healthcare segments is telehealth and Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM). This post offers a key solution for driving down readmission rates while making medicine more cost-effective and accessible to the masses.

A major component of RPM is wearable devices that allow healthcare professionals to monitor and diagnose patients without requiring them to be physically present at the doctor’s office. When correctly utilized, these wearable devices have the ability to monitor patient vitals and symptoms remotely. RPM can be used effectively as an early warning system for impending medical issues that could lead to readmission (or worse) if left untreated.

A great example of RPM devices that are helping to reduce readmission is the latest FDA-cleared continuous temperature monitors that aid in the early detection of infections. A study from the BMJ notes that infection is one of the leading causes of avoidable hospital readmission, leading to pains, inconveniences, risks, and costs for both patient and hospital—all of which could be prevented with effective RPM solutions.

RPM Wearables: Huge Potential, but Barriers to Adoption Remain

Remote Patient Monitoring wearables work by transmitting data from the patient at home and transmitting medically accurate data to a doctor or nurse at another location.

Overall, reliable, effective, and accessible medical-grade wearable technology has the ability to cut down on hospital wait times, healthcare costs and improve the general well-being of patients of all ages and circumstance. If RPM serves to change the world of healthcare in such a positive way, why aren’t all hospitals and medical professionals taking advantage of the solution?

Well, RPM is challenging because by definition it removes the support of medical staff to ensure proper usage. Situations in which it’s the patient’s responsibility to adhere to any component of a treatment plan introduce patient compliance problems. RPM is no different. I previously discussed two key challenges of wearability and data quality. The third challenge is data access.

Timely Data Access Is Vital to RPM’s Success

The third and final piece for RPM to manifest its full potential lies in ensuring timely access to data. If we go back to the case of infection monitoring, time is of the essence and can really make or break a readmission case. One of the biggest challenges in ensuring timely data access is reliable network availability. While not all consumers have a home network, a large majority do have a mobile phone. Cellular network connectivity has become pervasive enough to support an RPM solution almost anywhere in the Western world.

Considering the prevalence of smartphones and tablets, it’s becoming increasingly straightforward to provide near-real-time access to the data on wearable devices—regardless of a healthcare professional’s location in proximity to the patient.

That being said, smartphone-based solutions come with their own host of challenges. The variety of available devices can reduce the overall dependability of the solution with regards to compatibility, storage space, performance, and other core metrics. In order to mitigate this issue, the industry is taking steps to alleviate the connectivity problem. It’s providing patients with a provisioned phone or optimizing data management to limit the traffic volume. Other innovative firms are looking into specialized network devices for managing and transmitting health care data.

For IoT to prove its value in healthcare, it has both to save money and improve patient outcomes at scale—a tall order for these emerging technologies. But advancements demonstrate clear potential for not only bringing down costs and reducing the number of unnecessary healthcare visits but also drastically improving preventive and proactive care. Telemedicine and Remote Patient Monitoring are essential to a future characterized by not only precision medicine but, more importantly, precision health.