As the COVID-19 pandemic and shutdown kept people at home to avoid getting sick, especially those with chronic health conditions, experts recommended remote patient monitoring (RPM) as a solution to continuity of care. With forethought and the right technology on board, RPM can be a good complement to telehealth, allowing physicians to receive data about their patients’ in real time.
The most commonly used RPM devices track essential vital signs such as blood pressure, heart rate, blood glucose levels, oxygen saturation and temperature. There are also RPM devices for nervous system signals, weight, patient activity and sleep.
“As we gain more experience with RPM, we’ll figure out even more clinical conditions that it can help us with,” says Richard L. Seidman, M.D., MPH, chief medical officer of L.A. Care Health Plan.
In fact, his practice has been using RPM in a prenatal pilot to reduce the number of times pregnant women visit their doctor’s offices in person. Women in this pilot take their blood pressure and weigh themselves daily at home, then transmit that information to their doctors.
Physicians at the leading edge of RPM have adopted remote spirometry for to monitor patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and asthma, a population at high risk for COVID-19.
A big benefit RPM is that many systems don’t need to rely upon patient reporting their data. This is especially helpful for patients with conditions such as diabetes, which are subject to many incremental changes between physician visits. With RPM, crucial data can be transmitted to the doctor instantly, such as medication adherence and A1c.
RPM cannot replace in-person clinical visit, but it’s an essential tool alongside taking a good history, says Abe Malkin, M.D., MBA, founder and medical director of Concierge MD LA, a concierge practice.
“In primary care, once you have a really good history, you can almost make your determination. You use the physical exam to confirm that diagnosis. So [RPM] is sufficient to make diagnoses with a high level of comfort,” Malkin says. “It won’t replace in-person visits, but as we get more comfortable with it, it will give better access to care.”
Seidman adds that RPM is a great complement to telehealth, which is quickly becoming the standard for seeing patients during the COVID-19 pandemic.