The Benefits and Future of Remote Patient Monitoring

4 August 2021

Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM) is not exactly new. In hospitals, instrumentation to track changes in a patient's status, and especially to signal a crisis, have enabled nursing stations to watch for red alerts. But these have largely been systems designed and constructed for that specific function in that specific setting.

A great deal has changed because of the COVID-19 pandemic, of course, because the crisis put a premium on "remote" relations, including in health care. Just as wars are known to drive technological innovation, the pandemic accelerated remote patient monitoring.

The over-used word "revolutionized" honestly applies to how things have changed. The turning point was wireless communication: devices (a badge, bracelet, or tag) to transmit data wirelessly, and, dramatically, remote sensors that can detect and transmit patient data to a gateway device to interpret and share it.

This, of course, is the internet of things (IoT), the wireless connection of devices, instrumentation, and assets (for example, location of the nearest IV pump) in a system of data detection, transmission, reception, recording, and sharing in a system.


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Anchoring the Internet of Medical Things

In the field of medical and other health care, this is called the Internet of Medical Things (IoMT). IoMT today is used by physicians, hospitals, pharmaceutical researchers, and insurance companies, and others. It is fair to say that the power of the IoMT to change how things are done in the healthcare system largely depends upon RPM. And that, in turn, has been possible because of sensor technology, which makes available to the system reading of the patient's status as indicated by vital signs increasingly open to remote detection.   

Remote Patient Monitoring places at the very foundation of medical and health care IoMT. During the COVID-19 pandemic, of course, "remote" meant "safe" because patients did not need a visit to the doctor's office to be diagnosed and treated for certain problems. What emerged, during the initial year of the crisis, was a new experience with RPM. That experience suggested that RPM was not a makeshift for person-to-person care during a crisis. RPM is a long step forward in the connection between the patient and the health care professional.

Monitoring the patient 24/7

As much as one-third of the market for RPM is focused on "smart" technology. As the IoMT grows from a $45 million market in 2018 to an estimated $245 million market in 2026, "smart" healthcare technology will represent an estimated one-third of the total. RPM is making the entire hospital another kind of "smart building'' where the connection of health professionals and patients, location of mobile assets of all kinds, and administrative tasks all are managed and increasingly automated to free more time for attention to the patient experience. 

RPM is now is addressing a problem with which health care has wrestled with for decades: the relative lack of health care in rural areas with population densities that do not support local medical specialists and subspecialists and clinics. Remote stations (sometimes called "kiosks'') give residents a specially equipped location from which to connect with the health care professionals they need. If successful, this will address a challenge that has faced U.S. health care for decades.

In any context, however, the continuous monitoring of a patient's health status, in terms of specific physiological measurements, is the answer to a long-standing problem: the need of the physician for an accurate report of changing health status, quantitatively stated, in order to assess relevant changes.

RPM for the in-patient

Remote Patient Monitoring in a hospital, nursing home, or other health care facility does not imply "remote" in the same sense as rural health care. But in the far more complex, fast-paced inpatient setting, where critical conditions and urgency are the challenges, RPM is providing solutions.

The IoMT provides connectivity with the patient, the room, and the presence of health care personnel that permits a truly new level of management of patients.

Just on the critical issue of the availability of hospital beds, IoMT can transform the way Emergency Medical Services are conducted. With sensors such as Portal Beam tracking patient room occupancy or Asset Tags tracking beds, and even such issues as the availability of blood types in a hospital's blood bank, EMT personnel in an ambulance can identify the best hospital for their patient. This is the interconnectivity of all elements of the healthcare system that is possible with the IoMT. The benefits are measured in terms of the quality of patient care, the efficient employment of facilities and increasingly impressive savings as the IoMT reduces the unnecessary time of professional staff and, crucially, leverages the effectiveness of time spent by professional staff.

When a patient walks into the emergency room, that patient now can be tagged with a bracelet so that any waiting time can be used to triage patients. At the same time, the monitoring of patient rooms can inform the ER immediately when a hospital room is available. In effect, the challenge of patient triage in the ER is addressed by the data available.

In the patient's room, location bracelets and a fixed Portal Beam can keep the hospital informed of how many people are in the room.

The same technology can monitor other hospital facilities to track how many people are there. Badges for all hospital staff track their location in the hospital (including when they arrive at the facility or leave).

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RPM can assume an added urgency in facilities such as psychiatric hospitals, where patients are permitted some freedom of movement, but leaving the facility constitutes an emergency for the staff. In fact, remote tracking represents an important advance in security for nurses and other health care professionals. Staff tags that locate all personnel in real-time anywhere in a facility, can be programmed to transmit wearer security alarms. The record shows, unfortunately, that hospital staff, including nurses, are vulnerable to attacks.

Next steps with Kontakt.io

As a leader in innovative technology for the IoT, working with dozens of industries, Kontakt.io has worked to provide solutions within the healthcare industry, including hospitals of all kinds, other inpatient facilities, and physicians in office practice: All have worked with Kontakt.io to solve problems in a way that benefits patients care, and clinical outcomes.

Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) asset tags, disposable bracelets, fixed room portals, gateway, and cloud solutions are just a few technologies that Kontakt.io provides.

To explore the solution right for your organization, your first step can be reaching out to us today. Our staff can work with you to understand your distinctive challenges and goals and talk about how smart hospital solutions can address your goals.

schedule a call with our healthcare specialist 

Aneta Ciurkot

Director, Product Marketing

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    [Updated for 2020]
    [Updated for 2020]