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Wearables and apps are making a significant contribution to remote patient monitoring

This article is part of our continuing series on innovative healthcare in the age of COVID-19.


As we said in our Future of Healthcare article, 2020 will be remembered as the year that accelerated innovation, creation, and change in the healthcare industry. The use of wearables and apps as remote patient monitoring (RPM) devices is a topic of particular interest as the evolution of this technology meets skyrocketing consumer demand.

In this article, we will explore 4 factors contributing to the viability of wearables and apps as ideal remote patient monitoring tools:


1 - Meet an increased need for remote patient healthcare

2 - Provide a positive user experience and improve patient outcomes

3 - Integrate into current best practices

4 - Adopt smart technology


1 - Meet an increased need for remote healthcare

While digital health strategies were in play prior to 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the adoption of telehealth solutions and remote patient monitoring, as traditional health services have become too stretched or unreachable during the pandemic. As reported in a December 2020 press release from Financialnewsmedia.com, “Utilization and deployment of RPM devices have seen an exponential growth in the last few years and especially after the impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic.


RPM devices are getting broader support from regulatory agencies as tools that complement the patient journey, allowing physicians and care teams to remotely monitor, track and support their patients needs.” A study from the Consumer Technology Association (the trade group that every January puts on CES, one of the largest tech events in the world) found that over half (52 percent) of consumers indicated they would use a connected health device as part of their treatment if a doctor made the recommendation.


2 - Provide a positive user experience and improve patient outcomes


Wearable technology gained popularity with fitness trackers such as the Apple and Fitbit products to improve fitness-based outcomes by measuring vitals and biometrics. Consumers are familiar with wearables and apps; they’re not only easy to use, but in some instances, gamification (awarding badges for level achievements, allowing competition with others, etc.) can even help users stay motivated to reach fitness goals. According to businessinsider.com, “Wearable technology incentivizes behavior that reduces hospital visits and readmissions due to poorly managed personal health – 75% of users agree that wearables help them engage with their own health.”


And, the health care professionals surveyed for the Consumer Technology Association study saw multiple benefits of using technology to manage health, including improved patient outcomes (49 percent), improved compliance rates (44 percent) and patients taking more ownership of their health (42 percent). This trend likely won’t revert back to pre-pandemic conditions; instead, the use of RPM tools will continue as people incorporate healthcare wearables and apps into their lives.


3 – Integrate into current best practices


Monitoring vital signs is a foundational element of health care. Regular, consistent monitoring at home can provide invaluable data for healthcare providers. Home monitoring increased out of necessity during the pandemic due to hospitals needing to free space, and for consumers who relied on at-home tools to gather their own data and relieve some of the stress of not being able to see their regular healthcare providers in person.


In Wearable Technology Applications in Healthcare: A Literature Review from himss.org, the authors state that commonly measured data include vital signs such as heart rate, blood pressure, and body temperature, as well as blood oxygen saturation, posture, and physical activities through the use of electrocardiogram (ECG), ballistocardiogram (BCG) and other devices.


One of the effects of the pandemic that is likely to last is patients/health consumers being more proactive about monitoring their own health conditions and behaviors leading to healthier choices and lives.


4 – Adopt smart technology


When we look back at technology and devices that seemed impressive, but ultimately failed to gain a foothold in the market, a frequent contributing factor is that they didn’t meet a real consumer need. That isn’t the case with well-designed healthcare wearables and apps. They’re evolving to address real market needs by making smart use of available sensor technology.


In addition to accelerometers and motion sensors, remote healthcare monitoring tools use optical sensors to gathering useful data. Optical sensors play a vital role in precise, accurate EKG readings and enable highly sensitive measurement of health parameters and the surrounding environment, according to the Global Wearable Sensors Market Size, Industry Report, 2018-2025 from Grandview Research. The report expects the optical segment to expand at a CAGR of 38.0% over the forecast period.


We are watching the healthcare wearable and consumer app space to see what happens with new technology, revised regulations, and increased reliance on remote patient monitoring. This is an exciting time to be developing and using this technology. What remote health monitoring devices or apps have you used or discovered during the pandemic? Join the discussion and let us know!


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