Many types of health problems are on the rise, which are straining healthcare systems across the globe — a situation further magnified during the COVID-19 pandemic. Therefore, it is not a surprise to see healthcare organizations forcefully adopting innovative methods to offer uninterrupted services to patients even amidst the health crisis.
IoT within healthcare continues to proliferate in response to the increasing demand for healthcare services. One of the biggest growth areas of IoT implementation is Remote Patient Monitoring, or RPM, which has enabled at-risk patients to receive the care they deserve while remaining safe in their own homes.
RPM applications are medical devices that send data from sensors attached to patients and their environment to their healthcare providers for diagnosis and treatment monitoring purposes. Research shows that 90% of healthcare organizations and 50% of patients are interested in adopting remote patient monitoring systems as a part of their treatment process.
IoT and RPM: A match made in heaven
Since IoT supports the connectivity of remote devices co-located with a patient, healthcare providers can easily monitor them through the hospital's IT system.
They strongly believe RPM improves patient experience and leads to better health outcomes while lowering operational costs. Doctors and nurses can keep a continuous check on vital signs such as blood pressure, insulin levels, respiratory rate, temperature, heart rate, and so on.
In case of emergencies, they can provide assistance instantaneously to the patients in need, thereby reducing instances of delayed response times. RPM replaces traditional methods like phone calls during emergency or email queries about symptoms in the healthcare sector.
How do RPM systems work?
IoT-enabled connected devices allow tracking of patient health at home, and the reports are sent to the doctor in real-time. It makes routine checkups easier without the need for physical trips to the hospital, especially when it is far away.
An IoT-enabled healthcare system can also help improve access to medical facilities in remote areas where trained doctors and healthcare providers are not readily available.
RPM also proved helpful for patients with chronic conditions during the pandemic as it was not safe for them to visit the doctor in person. Collectively, we could save tens of billions every year if IoT is used in the healthcare industry.
The National Broadband Plan drafted by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) predicts that using RPM technologies alongside electronic health records (EHR) could lead to a reduction of $700 billion over the next two decades.
Five advantages of RPM
RPM improves healthcare by making it more accessible and improving the quality of care. It offers several benefits, including reduced operating costs and expense of care. Deploying IoT technology also helps increase the revenue for hospitals, insurers, and patients. Some of the critical advantages are as follows:
1. Enhanced accessibility
RPM solutions offer more convenience to both patients and healthcare professionals. Patients do not need to miss their routine checkups due to doctor unavailability, nor do they have to rush in case of an emergency.
On the other hand, healthcare workers can perform efficiently, as the system allows for better coordination between caregivers. It also helps improve patient outcomes with nearly instant communication capabilities.
Virtual meetings can be easily scheduled, reducing the need for in-person appointments, whereas doctors can still have a face-to-face interaction with each patient.
2. Reduced response time
IoT-enabled RPM systems allow healthcare professionals to cater to their patients much more quickly than traditional methods. Earlier intervention is a crucial factor that helps physicians address serious medical events quicker and with greater accuracy.
They can instantly decide the medication to be administered as they continuously monitor patient vitals. The quicker response times help save lives by preventing delayed diagnoses.
Well-connected health devices help diagnose less severe conditions too. They are useful as treatments may be initiated faster with greater efficiency. And who does not want to receive medical care quickly and without any hassle?
3. Increased precision and accuracy
RPM devices provide enough information to bring together healthcare professionals, caretakers, patients, and even subject matter experts. They can accurately assess the patient's condition through the precise information generated by IoT devices.
It helps in medication management and titration to ensure appropriate dosages and safer adjustments. The capability of RPM systems can be enhanced by equipping them with GPS location detectors to help in case of an emergency.
It is beneficial for monitoring patients who have dementia or Alzheimer's because they may wander off from time to time. Caretakers can keep track of the patient and avoid chances of them going missing.
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4. Minimal admin paperwork
The benefits associated with using an accurate and precise IoT-enabled medical device are much more than just improving efficiency. The RPM system can also be used to furnish accurate information to insurers and government agencies so that they process claims more quickly.
Automation can help share patient data with the authorities to eliminate the need to fill out lengthy claim forms. The auto-generated reports from the RPM system and doctor prescriptions are securely transmitted to the concerned insurer or government office.
RPM devices help in providing a better experience overall by accelerating the claim approval process based on the insurance company's policies.
5. Better safety and security
Security and patient data confidentiality are paramount in healthcare. Medical data must be kept secure, as the information is extremely sensitive. Maintaining data security when being collected, handled, transferred, and read is essential.
The data transmission happens on a highly secure IoT network. Smaller hospitals can even use RPM integration to upgrade their in-house data protection efforts.
It helps them easily comply with EMR (electronic medical record) regulations while meeting HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, 1996) requirements.
Use cases of RPM in this day and age
When it comes to caring for patients, no two cases are alike. That is why an extensive range of equipment and continuous monitoring options are available that can be tailored specifically towards a patient's needs.
IoT enhances the performance of RPM by enabling data sharing. RPM devices such as remote stethoscopes allow doctors to check up on the patient's heart health. The right tools help overcome barriers of distance and faulty manual instruments.
On the other hand, patients are receiving remote care tailored to their needs. For example, cardiac patients require regular checks on blood pressure, and diabetes patients need to check glucose levels multiple times a day.
Remote IoT devices transmit information collected from the patient to the doctors for instant recommendations and transform the quality of life. Similarly, patients with a rare disease like mesothelioma often find themselves struggling to access care.
They have a tougher medical treatment process that requires more planning, and remote assistance is needed in case of complications. It is essential for doctors treating these patients to make sure they are taken care of regularly and keep track of what treatments work best for them while maintaining efficiency.
RPM allows the patient comfort without being lost in appointments and reduces downtime between consultation sessions. IoT technology makes health services more compliant by allowing closer monitoring.
IoT software solutions provide a wealth of information that can be used to monitor patients, but this requires an infrastructure for connecting them.
RPM programs use modems and other devices like routers to gather data from numerous IoT monitoring equipment without disrupting the patient's daily life too much.
The collected data is shared over the IoT network with healthcare providers who have easy access at their fingertips, whether through computer screens or physical touchpoints such as nurse stations. It allows them to deal with the problems before they become serious issues.
Eight IoT devices for RPM
Embracing RPM has improved patient safety and security of the data related to their health. It helps improve physical security with better fall prevention tools and digitally safeguards the patient's health information.
In addition, RPM saves the doctor's time and eliminates the need for multiple in-person visits or over-the-call consultations, which is necessary during the pandemic when the risk of catching COVID-19 is at an all-time high. Adding to that, here are eight notable use cases of RPM:
1. Blood pressure cuffs help monitor blood pressure. They are helpful for hypertension management, as most patients experiencing high blood pressure are asymptomatic.
2. Weight monitors come in handy for measuring fluctuations in weight. It helps avoid Congestive Heart Failure (CHF) due to fluid retention.
It is also valuable for obesity control as it helps monitor weight loss and alerts healthcare practitioners if rapid weight loss occurs in a patient. It can lead to complications such as weak bones, compromised immune systems, fatigue, and dehydration.
3. Glucometers test the blood sugar level of type 1 and type 2 diabetes patients using a small drop of blood. It is crucial to monitor blood sugar levels as the patient may not show any symptoms but might be suffering from hyperglycemia (too high glucose level) or hypoglycemia (too low glucose level). Digital glucometers help avoid the life-threatening condition of ketoacidosis.
4. Pulse oximeters monitor blood oxygen levels for COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), CHF (congestive heart failure), or in COVID-19 patients.
5. ECG and digital stethoscopes are used for patients with arrhythmias or coronary artery disease.
6. Activity trackers help maintain an active daily routine by tracking patients' movements, heart rate and even sleep.
7. Bluetooth and non-touch digital thermometers help measure body temperature accurately in the case of flu, COVID-19, or other infections.
8. Spirometers are extremely useful for pulmonary function testing and diagnosing lung infections such as asthma and COPD.
Best practices for designers and developers of RPM
1. Have a plan of action
IoT vendors must provide fit-for-purpose security in their healthcare products and services. They must lay out a risk management process and determine security objectives while designing the RPM products.
2. Segment the network for security reasons
Network segmentation must be implemented as a security measure that protects networks by creating different subnets for each network segment. This allows administrators to control traffic flowing through the entire hospital's internet connection and set rules for each of them.
3. Use AI-driven security solutions
Such apps can identify threats that would otherwise go unnoticed by traditional firewalls and antivirus software. They track non-typical activity and changes in user behavior and are better equipped to avoid potential security breaches.
4. Deploy IoT aggregation hubs
The IoT ecosystem is already vulnerable due to the amount of data involved. That is why please keep an eye on all devices connected to the network and control their traffic settings. Deploying IoT aggregation hubs protects the devices from being hacked by third parties who want to attack these crucial systems.
5. Use inventory software for detecting malfunctioning
Monitor the devices on the IoT network using any inventory software that will help detect any malfunctioning. It will also ease remote monitoring and maintenance along with diagnosing security issues. Maintenance can also be scheduled to minimize downtime in a clinical setting.
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6. Make device ports difficult to access
Medical devices are vulnerable to hacking, and much damage can be caused just by installing a malicious chip into the system. Companies must make their device ports challenging to access and seal them with electronic digital signatures.
7. Monitor device activity in real-time
This is a vital practice for developers to follow to help detect suspicious signals or code from hackers attempting to compromise the IoT network security perimeter.
8. Build a protective shield around RPM products
The increase in electronic devices generates more EMI (electromagnetic interference issue), leading to problems in the operation of the RPM products.
The products may generate interference with each other or any nearby electronics that receive their signals. A shield should be built up around each device to protect against outside threats such as microwaves and radio waves crashing into its sensitive parts to avoid this issue.
9. Protect the IoT data with encryption
Embedded devices currently use asymmetric lightweight cryptography (LWCRYPT) techniques. IoT-enabled wearable sensors must contain keys for establishing protected data transfer channels among the devices and the end-users.
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10. Implement an authentication procedure to safeguard data
Complex authentication will not allow anyone from within the organization to access the information without permission. The best thing would also include strict policies about who can access the data at a particular time and under what circumstances.
It eliminates possible vulnerabilities, and the elaborate security measures protect against hackers attacking patient records.
Over to you
Remote patient monitoring is an incredible opportunity in the healthcare industry. It promises to revolutionize healthcare by reaching $3,244.9 million by 2027.
An increasing number of patients with chronic diseases and rising awareness about early intervention are the reasons for RPM's estimated CAGR of 18.9% from 2020 to 2027.
Besides the exponential growth in remote patient monitoring devices, the global market anticipates restructuring doctor-patient relationships. The use of IoT technology will remove the need for face-to-face encounters between doctors and their clients.
IoT technology is beneficial for patients residing in remote areas with limited availability of doctors. Healthcare professionals would also not be overworked and constant monitoring of patients will be comfortable.
They will have enough patient information in real-time to make informed treatment decisions. If you are looking to create an IoT-powered application for remote patient monitoring purposes, get in touch with our expert today!