Most RPM initiatives are fairly small, but the technology is having a significant impact, says Colin Buckley, director of market analysis for KLAS Research and the co-author of a recent report on RPM. The report suggests RPM is entering a new age, with more solutions to empower patients and facilitate the expansion of use.
“So far, most programs are fairly modest,” Buckley says. “They might have between 25 and 100 monitoring kits they can use at any one time, usually for very focused use cases. But most of the organizations we talk to say they’re having success in terms of outcomes, and these successes often happen very quickly.”
UCLA Health, which launched an RPM program in 2013, has seen the quantity and capabilities (such as an electrocardiogram function) of its tools evolve. Often, the devices such as scales and blood pressure gauges connect to patients’ tablets or smartphones via Bluetooth; those consumer devices use Wi-Fi to transmit readings back to the hospital, where UCLA clinicians rely on Apple iPad devices and iPhones to receive and interpret the data. Although an influx of patient data is valuable, Benharash notes that human healthcare workers are still needed to interpret and act on the results. “We’re eventually going to need data science and artificial intelligence to sort out some of the meaning behind the vital signs,” he says. “Let’s say your heart rate is 70, and then it goes up to 100: That’s very different from a patient whose heart rate lives at 100.”
The 88% of healthcare providers have invested in—or are evaluating—remote patient monitoring technologies to support high-risk, chronically ill patients at risk for hospital readmission.
RPM efforts, then, must be designed to meet the needs of patient populations. Health studies revealed most of its readmissions occurred within the first ten to twelve days after discharge, Benharash notes, so clinicians increased the frequency of video chats in the first seven to ten days after a patient went home. They also began to monitor vital signs more closely during that period.
RPM tools have led to what Benharash calls a “significant reduction” in readmission rates among cardiac patients, which declined by about one-third (from 15 to 10 percent). “Most important, the patients are happier,” he says. “They don’t feel like they’re thrown back out into the world. That reassurance matters a lot.”