The Future of Patient Monitoring

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A recent IEEE blog explored the future of patient-centred mobile remote patient monitoring as it extends beyond conventional patient monitoring in advancing healthcare functionality utilising ICT.

Remote patient monitoring (RPM) and mobile remote patient monitoring (mRPM) are forms of telehealth that utilise monitoring technologies tracking patient data beyond the health facility. RPM relies on various technologies to coordinate a multiple-point monitoring system: from source (patient device/sensor), software program (mobile app), the internet, the healthcare provider and finally the cloud/storage system.

Difference Between RPM and mRPM

Often the concept of RPM has become interchangeable with connected medical devices, where data is autonomously transmitted via a network—broadband internet, cellular data, etc.—to its final endpoint. However, there is a difference between mRPM and RPM.

mRPM refers to connected devices that automatically transmit data through the internet or a mobile device via cellular data into a platform that can analyse and view data for therapeutic monitoring. Patients are not required to be confined to one space and there are a reduced number of manual actions needed to collect or transmit data.

RPM can be nonconnected devices requiring patients to report health measures either through a web portal, via telephone, in person with their clinician, or some other manual process. Although RPM is moving more towards a mobilised/connected platform, there still remains a strong population of patients who require access to the nonconnected devices because they are either less expensive and/or patients don’t have access to internet or cellular data.

Michael Carter, Program Director, Mass General Brigham; and Healthcare Technologies Workstream Leader, IEEE SA Transforming the Telehealth Paradigm Industry Connections Program explains: “RPM is one of those Telehealth modalities that really touches the whole continuum of care. The patient does not have to be in the hospital and now that extends into population-health, where you can manage the care of multiple segments of patients and effectively manage populations which leads to things like value-based care models.

“Then there’s the research side of RPM which has so much promise where we’re collecting data, and if we can store and aggregate that data, then we can start doing more predictive analytics and using things technologies such as AI and machine learning to basically make these value-based care systems work.”

The growth in the use of RPM is poised to grow exponentially in the future with an increasing comfort level of use and its ability to treat an expected growing generation of elderly users:

  • 30 million US patients (11.2% of population) will use RPM tools by 2024—28.2% growth from 23.4 million patients in 2020.
  • The number of people aged 65 years or over in 2019 globally was 703 million; projected to reach 1.5 billion in 2050. The constant increase in the geriatric population will further support the growth of the remote patient monitoring market.
  • In July 2021, telehealth utilisation was 38 times higher than before COVID.
  • 87% of physicians say RPM will be a key part of the patient experience in the future and will most likely double in the next 5 years by 2026.

As the technology developments and use of m/RPM tools continue to grow, new and existing challenges continue to grow alongside it, including:

  • With all the innovation in developing and bringing these devices to market, how are we addressing the threats and vulnerabilities to patients’ data security and privacy?
  • How are the devices and data interoperable with the rest of telehealth platforms or even the patient’s EHR (electronic health record)?
  • How is RPM data delivering more value to the patient in the form of more immediate and appropriate response to potential health issues?
  • How are we designing devices and systems that are more inclusive, feasible and adaptable for ALL patients?

Addressing these questions, Narendra Mangra, Principal of Globenet; and Co-Chair of IEEE ‘Future Networks Initiative (FNI) International Network Generations Roadmap’, IEEE ‘Transforming the Telehealth Paradigm’, and IEEE P1950.1 Standard for Communications Architectural Functional Framework for Smart Cities’ said: “There are a lot of different types of fragmented solutions, maybe proprietary solutions, so we need to get to a point where we are a bit more interoperable. Our devices should be reflective of that; and we understand that there may be different variations and the types of devices and networking capabilities and the types of services that may be offered. But at some point, we want to be able to get to the point where we can communicate seamlessly back and forth, no matter what device or technology happens to be on and no matter what healthcare provider, you are speaking with. That would lead to a seamless overall end-to-end solution.”