Remote Patient Monitoring: Economic and Access Implications

Mobile devices have completely taken over our lives.  Although millennials have the reputation of being overly attached to their smartphones, older generations are also adapting to the devices.  A 2018 publication by the Pew Research Center stated that 73% of U.S. adults ages 50-64 and 46% of adults 65 and older have smartphones.  A recent study by the AARP also indicated that adults 50 and older are also receptive to wearing activity and sleep trackers, in which 77% of respondents of study participants stated after testing a device they believed that their trackers were useful or had the potential to be useful.  

The reason I am placing so much emphasis on older adults is because, as most in healthcare know, this population carries major concerns for the healthcare system in general as they account for a large portion of cost, chronic conditions, and usage.  This is why efforts in remote patient monitoring, or the use of devices to digitally transmit data such as blood pressure, weight, blood glucose levels in diabetic patients, blood oxygen levels, and heart rate to healthcare professionals, have the highest impact potential in the older population.  It is not nearly as challenging to convince younger adults to use remote devices to monitor their health status via electronic mobile devices, and older patients are more likely to have chronic conditions that can be positively impacted by remote monitoring.

Comfort with mobile devices in all patients, particularly in older patients who suffer from chronic diseases, can help healthcare professionals and patients monitor health regularly without making as frequent clinic visits.  Regularly sent health information to a patient’s healthcare team allows them to stay on top of their health without the time commitment of going to a clinic. Remote patient monitoring also helps patients avoid paying for additional visits to obtain regular readings.  Remote patient monitoring also is part of the current emphasis in healthcare on preventive care. Enabling patients, especially older patients and those with chronic conditions, to have more regular access to their health statistics can help catch potential problems earlier and keep them out of hospitals and skilled nursing facilities.

Remote patient monitoring also has potential to make positive economic impacts.  As touched on earlier, remote patient monitoring can be widely used in preventive care.  Therefore, using the regular results from remote monitoring devices, by catching potential issues early, can reduce costly hospital admissions.  Remote patient monitoring, like all telehealth initiatives, can increase provider productivity. By checking patients’ levels regularly and acting on them only when necessary or having a quick e-consult if they see a concern, they are able to see more patients, both remotely and in-person.

Remote patient monitoring has the potential to further increase access to care and generate cost savings, particularly among older populations.  As our society becomes increasingly dependent on mobile devices, healthcare is following the trend and can continue to advance the field.