As a COPD or asthma patient, you might have been surprised by a sudden exacerbation or attack that just came out of the blue. If you only had some advance warning, you might have been able to prevent the attack or at least cope more successfully. Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM) is a relatively new approach to helping patients, caregivers, and health care providers manage chronic illness more effectively.
Remote Patient Monitoring involves collecting health information—usually vital signs and other data—from individual patients during their daily activities and transmitting the data to the patient’s health care provider or health organization. A health care provider can then analyze the data and make any needed adjustments to the patient’s care.
Different kinds of devices are used to collect and transmit patient information. Typically, these devices are small, easy to use, and focused on the kind of information needed for managing particular conditions.
For COPD or asthmas patients, RPM devices usually record medication use, frequency of nebulizer or inhaler use, blood oxygenation evels, frequency of coughing, amount of exercise, or other relevant data.
When this information is transmitted to a patient’s healthcare provider, the provider is alerted whenever the data fall outside of pre-established norms for that patient. The doctor or nurse can then get in touch with the patient and adjust medication or treatment as needed.
Such exchanges of information happen without the need for in-person visits or hospitalization. This saves time and energy for the patient and makes managing care more efficient. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, remote care also protects patients and health care staff from transmission of the coronavirus.
By monitoring selected vital signs, administration of medication via a nebulizer or inhaler, and other activity, RPM can improve patient care.
Such monitoring encourages patients to adhere to their prescribed treatment plan.Patients often become more committed to following their plan because they are actually partnering with their doctor or other provider in understanding and carrying out their plan’s details.
Further, if medication or some other aspect of the treatment plan needs adjusting, the provider will have a much more complete understanding of the patient’s situation. This will allow both the patient and the provider to have more confidence in any adjustments going forward.
More important from a patient’s perspective, RPMcan often predict COPD exacerbations or asthma attacks. For example, increased frequency of nebulizer or inhaler use can indicate a possible event.Similarly, decreased oxygenation levels or the amount of air that a patient can exhale (FVC, forced vital capacity) beyond an individual patient’s normal levels can predict an attack.
Of course, being able to detect when an exacerbation or attack might occur allows treatment intervention to begin much sooner. And prompt attention to the situation can minimize damage and, perhaps, the need for an emergency room visit or hospitalization.
As research shows, RPMallows patients to receive better coordination of care. When monitoring data are entered into a patient’s electronic health record (EHR), all providers who have access to that record can have a complete picture of the patient’s situation. This also helps doctors coordinate medication levels with pharmacists or others who are responsible for administering medications.
Moreover, patients benefit from being trained in how to use monitoring devices. This allows patients to understand their treatment plan and use of medications more clearly.They can have confidence when they leave their doctor’s office or the hospital that nothing will fall through the cracks, that they will know what they need to do to help manage their own care. As a result, RPM can provide patients with a beneficial sense of control.
As medical device technology advances, RPM devices are becoming smaller, more robust in what they can do, and easier to use.
Just like some portable nebulizers can deliver precise amounts of medication easily, RPM devices are often capable of reporting different kinds of information without disrupting or interfering with a patient’s daily activities.
The cost of RPM devices is often wholly or partially covered by private insurance plans and Medicare. The simple reason is that use of these devices lowers health care costs by reducing the number of in-person visits, emergency room visits, and hospitalizations.