We’re more equipped than ever to care for patients in ways that best suit their individual needs. Thanks to the popularity of telehealth, providers are able to bring high level treatment home, allowing them to serve patients across locational, economic, and age boundaries. One of the most valuable evolutions in telehealth care is remote patient monitoring. While it is an incredible implementation that has helped support the lives of many, there are risks that healthcare providers need to mitigate in order to protect their patients and reduce liability.
Remote patient monitoring (RPM) is a healthcare practice that enables medical professionals to monitor patients from a remote location using digital technology. RPM typically involves the use of devices such as wearables, sensors, and mobile apps that can collect various health data such as blood pressure, heart rate, glucose levels, and activity levels. The data is then transmitted to healthcare providers who can review it and use it to make informed decisions about a patient's care plan. RPM has become increasingly popular in recent years, particularly as a means of monitoring patients with chronic conditions or those who are recovering from surgery or illness.
Remote patient monitoring is associated with lower healthcare costs, better clinical outcomes, faster access to patient data, and more. Notably, it allows immunocompromised or high infection risk patients to stay home while being monitored, reducing their chance of illness. Elderly patients and those who cannot drive also benefit from RPMs as they allow them to receive care without needing to find transportation.
Some healthcare devices like Dexcom, a wearable glucose monitor for patients with diabetes, are working with RPM companies to integrate patient data into their provider’s systems to provide actionable data and insights to their health.
As with any kind of healthcare or treatment, there are risks that come along with remote patient monitoring. When providers are so far away from their patients, extra care must be taken to help manage and mitigate these risks. The Texas Medical Library Trust illustrates a few of these risks and how providers need to address them.
While remote patient monitoring systems are designed to simplify treatment and create manageable solutions for patients, there is a level of digital literacy required to effectively and safely use their equipment. It’s essential that both patients and whomever they live with are educated on their care plan and device maintenance. Ensuring family members and caretakers are also educated allows them to assist the patient and respond promptly in the case of an emergency.
It’s up to healthcare providers to effectively train patients and their loved ones in how to operate their remote patient monitoring systems. Part of this is providing comprehensive steps on what to do should the RPM malfunction, as in many cases a lapse in care is an issue of life or death. This is mostly mitigated by providers selecting high quality devices, implementing maintenance and repair protocols, and proper patient education.
On both the provider and RPM manufacturers end, there lies a risk to patient privacy and cybersecurity. As with any device that connects to the internet, RPM software and hardware has the possibility to fall victim to viruses and malware that can potentially steal patient information or violate HIPAA. While the largest portion of security concerns fall on the manufacturers of RPM devices, it is partially up to healthcare providers to help manage these risks.
Educating patients on proper device use is also important, but the burden shouldn’t fall on them. The biggest way that healthcare providers can protect their patients is by choosing reliable vendors with a strong reputation for cybersecurity.
The biggest risk associated with RPM systems however is that of patient safety. While there are a few ways that RPMs can potentially put patients at risk, one of the most difficult to address is that associated with an unstable or unreliable internet connection.
RPMs rely on consistent and accurate distribution of data from patient to provider. For example, some patients need to be connected to a heart rate or blood pressure monitor to detect cardiac episodes. If this information isn’t quickly and accurately relayed, patients may not be able to receive the care they need in a timely manner. Without high quality internet and a positive digital experience patients can be left without the care they need, putting them at risk for serious consequences.
Even with these risks, RPM devices are an incredible innovation that has proved to be beneficial for patients across a variety of conditions. With the right tools and strategies, risk mitigation in RPMs is highly manageable. Besides the selection of high quality devices and equipment, proper remote patient monitoring and digital experience management is the key to successful RPM implementation.
HubbleIQ helps healthcare organizations serve their patients and support their providers with easy and accurate digital experience monitoring and network checks. With a centralized dashboard with easy access to network assessments, it’s easy to keep tabs on patient connectivity quality.
For telehealth visits, providers can send their patients a speed test that ensures their network is ready for appointments. The patient is able to check their internet quality with just a few clicks, reducing technical issues and allowing providers to focus on treatment. With the right equipment, tools, and management plan, RPMs are a revolutionary form of medicine that have changed countless lives.