Remote patient monitoring is about creating a better quality of life for patients, whether they suffer from chronic illnesses are recovering from one-time injuries. While initially limited in its applications, RPM use cases are evolving rapidly, thanks partially to advances in wearable technology, which are making monitoring and tracking of various health-related statistics easier and more consistent.
Biosensors have been integrated into many form factors, including watches and other wristwear, patches, shoes, belts, clothing, and of course smartphones. These devices come with several benefits to both patients and physicians – the two key constituencies to any monitoring and treatment program – and are being used to treat a growing number of conditions.
Here are just a few of the ways wearables are being used for remote patient monitoring.
Managing Chronic Conditions
Managing many conditions can feel overwhelming to patients and physicians, both of whom have been involved in manually tracking, recording, and analyzing statistics like heart rate, blood glucose levels, body temperature and more. Wearable devices make it possible to gather the same data automatically, send it to telehealth systems and physicians for analysis and automatic appended to patients’ EMRs, keeping patient data accurate and up-to-date without any manual data entry. Systems can also be set up to send alerts for treatment updates if certain thresholds are exceed. The end result is the data collection simply becomes a passive task for everyone involved, allowing them to focus on other activities.
For instance, diabetics are able to use continuous glucose monitoring transmitters that connect to smartphone apps to provide alerts if blood sugar levels are too low or high. Ongoing data collection can also help physicians and patients understand how different foods or activities impact their blood sugar levels and create appropriate action plans.
Exercise is often prescribed for many chronic and temporary conditions, including weight control, anxiety or depression, and injury rehabilitation. Fitness wearables are ideally suited to track key statistics that help track effectiveness of a prescribed regimen, while additional devices, like connected scales, make it possible to also measure related statistics, like weight. In addition to measuring heart rate and other vitals, these wearables act as reminders for patients who may otherwise forget to follow their programs, or provide motivation for patients to achieve certain fitness-related goals. Again, the data can be shared directly with physicians and automatically inserted into patient records. Wearable devices with accelerometers can be used in rehabilitation after surgery or injury and data can be shared in real time with trainers who can provide immediate feedback.
Mental Health and Cognitive Challenges
Patients with Alzheimer’s disease, mental health issues, or other cognitive challenges can use wearable devices that act as trackers to allow caregivers to monitor patients’ location and, depending on the specific device, even check in with them. Some devices can even use geofencing technology to trigger call, texts or vibration alerts if patients venture too far from their homes. Devices can also deliver reminders for medication or appointments. The end result it a more effective way of monitoring patient location and providing reminders to follow prescribed protocols, making treatment more effective.
Emerging Innovation and the Future of Healthcare Wearables
While there are already many common conditions that can leverage non-intrusive wearables to improve or simplify treatment, new, innovative use cases are constantly being developed that can treat, monitor, and even prevent certain conditions. For instance, an FDA-cleared wrist device is able to prevent nausea from motion sickness and even morning sickness during pregnancy through neuromodulation. Another company is working on embedded breast patches in bras that detect changes in breast tissue and act as screening devices for breast cancer.
Preventative monitoring may be a significant growth opportunity, as applications for monitoring at-risk or even low-risk patients has the potential to transform healthcare from a management to a preventative wellness protocol using RPM and wearables.
The true success of wearables as part of remote patient monitoring solutions will be determined on two levels: benefits to patients and physicians. But, as long as the medical outcomes are at least consistent with office visits, the time- and cost- benefits for both will drive adoption. For patients, the convenience of not having to travel to offices and reduced healthcare costs, along with the potential for expedited