In recent times, I’ve spent some time researching the field of remote patient monitoring technologies. While many are just beginning to be deployed, I’d argue that these solutions make far too much sense to stay under the covers for much longer.
Not only that, given that the COVID-19 restrictions are still in place and may remain so indefinitely, there are even more reasons for providers to dip their toe into these waters.
As I see it, however, there’s a key strategic question to be answered as RPM use ramps up, and that’s how exactly these devices should fit into the clinical workflow. Making that decision, in turn, will dictate what type of overall solutions and device form factors vendors should favor.
The truth is that at present, there are still questions about what functions are best integrated into a remote monitoring tool. I’ve seen everything from tightly focused technology addressing a very specific niche to products that seem to offer everything at once.
One company serving a specialized RPM niche is a startup called Babyscripts which offers virtual prenatal and postpartum care via a mobile app. The app sends health information and daily nutritional, medical and lifestyle content as well as supporting weight monitoring. Babyscripts also offers a connected blood pressure cuff and scale expectant mothers can use to transmit vitals data to their doctors.
Another vendor focused on a niche within the remote monitoring market is AliveCor, which offers patients a tool allowing them to capture a 30-second EKG which can detect AFib, bradycardia, or tachycardia. An interesting aspect of AliveCor’s business is that its tools are marketed to consumers as a peace of mind option rather than providers, Still, its core KardiaMobile product, currently priced at $89, deserves a look from HIT pros.
Meanwhile, other tools marketed to consumers are designed to fulfill a range of functions. For example, wearables made by giants like Fitbit, Apple, and now Amazon gather data on heart functioning but also sleep and activity levels. Given that by one estimate, 21% of Americans use a smartwatch or fitness tracker, providers are likely to make use of the data set these devices gather. After all, even if the results aren’t terribly precise, they may be useful for population health management.
The above anecdotes profile just a tiny sample of devices appearing in an exploding market. However, they do call attention to questions I think providers should consider.
The most pressing, I’d argue, is whether it makes more sense for remote patient monitoring platforms to offer a comprehensive look at a patient’s health status – serving as a sort of Swiss Army Knife of RPM – or focus on niches like virtual OB/GYN services, wound care, or cardiac tracking.
My instinct is that it’s a good idea to work with specialized RPM vendors for the immediate future. If you’re considering rolling out a new tool, you probably want to capture a specific set of data points a specialist can plug directly into their thought process and information sharing routines.
However, there do seem to be situations in which more generic wearables make sense, particularly when clinicians are attempting quick-and-dirty deployments to cope with COVID-19 needs.
It’s also clear that there will be a demand – eventually if not right away – for giant medical device companies (think Phillips and Medtronic) to offer a comprehensive RPM platform that supports a broad population.
Until then, however, I’d argue that when it comes to RPM solutions, it’s best to focus on one thing at a time. In other words, less is almost certainly more.