In the final week of March 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic had definitively spread to the United States, the number of telehealth visits rose by 154% compared to the same period in 2019. Some organizations even saw spikes closer to 350%.
That sudden surge makes sense in light of the circumstances, but it wasn’t just a temporary blip. One year later, it’s become obvious that COVID-19 has permanently changed the way we conduct healthcare. A recent HIMSS survey found that 9 out of 10 organizations are planning on sustaining or boosting their telehealth services in preparation for an anticipated 53% increase in demand over the long term.
The fact that the telehealth industry will only grow makes it more important than ever to discuss its inherent strengths and its current limitations. With a better understanding of these aspects, healthcare providers as well as their patients will get a clearer idea of how evolving technologies—namely, remote patient monitoring devices coupled with an IoT remote monitoring solution—can unlock the full potential of their telehealth offerings.
What is telehealth?
Diagnosing and treating patients from a distance, or telehealth, has been around in its modern form since the 1960s, although the personal and mobile computing revolution has changed how we think of it. To get a better fix on where telehealth stands today, let’s briefly consider the following:
- What are the basic requirements of a telehealth service? In a nutshell: complete confidentiality. Telehealth platforms must support secure, HIPAA-compliant communication, such as videoconferencing, between doctor and patient. Patient medical information is simply one of the most sensitive categories of data.
- What can (and can’t) telehealth do? The strengths of telehealth are its convenience and efficiency. However, it’s forced to rely on self-reporting. Without remote patient monitoring devices, physicians are unable to observe patients’ vitals during the visits. That seriously limits the scope of something as routine as an annual wellness check.
- What are the near- and long-term opportunities for telehealth? IoT monitoring systems are one of the biggest catalysts for telehealth’s growth. These will not only close the gap between in-person and remote visits but could very well make telehealth the preferred care format for patients as well as doctors in most cases.
The takeaway here is that strong groundwork and demand for telehealth already exist, but its future rests on care paradigms that move beyond physical interaction. That’s why a remote patient monitoring system is key to meeting patient needs and establishing telehealth as a viable—and even superior—alternative to traditional in-person medical care.
What is remote patient monitoring?
Like its name suggests, remote patient monitoring (RPM) is a counterpart to telehealth. It involves using devices to record and transmit real-time patient data that can be consulted by medical professionals. A remote patient monitoring system therefore consists of two parts:
- Dedicated remote patient monitoring devices (i.e., hardware) to capture and relay the patients’ vital data, and
- an IoT remote monitoring solution (i.e., software; also called a remote patient monitoring platform) that ingests and processes the data.
These remote patient monitoring devices come in many forms. They can be FDA-approved, specialized health monitoring devices like blood pressure monitors, pulse oximeters, scales or continuous glucose monitors. Or they can be consumer-facing wearables like an Apple Watch or a Fitbit. They all have the ability to capture real-time as well as longitudinal health data that enables physicians to get a more accurate, comprehensive picture of a patient’s health and make more informed decisions.
Leveraging technology in this way doesn’t just allow a GP to confirm that your blood pressure is healthy during a routine exam. It also makes it easier for healthcare professionals to monitor chronic conditions and spot worrying trends or anomalies. And so it shouldn’t be surprising to know that multiple studies on discrete remote patient monitoring devices—implantable cardiac defibrillators, for instance—have shown improved outcomes.
Bridgera MyHealth supports data-driven healthcare
As noted above, devices are only half of a remote patient monitoring system. An IoT platform is the necessary link between those devices and actionable, data-driven decisions.
Bridgera myHealth is a unified platform that facilitates RPM and creates a robust, scalable foundation for an organization’s telehealth services to evolve. It securely interfaces with many types of remote monitoring devices, collects essential patient data, provides HIPAA-compliant communication and assists with record-keeping and administration through its powerful web portal.
Developed with a view to the varied needs of all healthcare service providers, Bridgera myHealth allows doctors, nurses and nurse practitioners to onboard and remotely monitor patients with ease. At the same time, it also streamlines the patient experience. Via the myHealth mobile app, new and existing patients can view their records, manage their payment options and set up reminders about medication or appointments. The portal and app also work together to provide 256-bit encrypted video calling and secure text messaging.
By fostering more meaningful engagement between patients and physicians, Bridgera’s feature-rich telehealth platform helps to ensure better quality of care and improved patient outcomes. Better still, it’s quick to deploy, cost-effective and highly customizable. Request a demo today to see how Bridgera myHealth can become the cornerstone to your organization’s remote patient monitoring system and augment your telehealth services going forward.