Although health care, and our health insurance premiums, seems to get more expensive every year, those extra costs do not always seem to translate into higher quality care for patients or higher pay and more time off for doctors. In fact, in recent years, wait times in hospitals and doctors offices have increased, and doctors and nurses in hospitals have been made responsible for taking care of an ever increasing number of patients.
While technological innovations in the field of medicine, such as electronic medical records and electronic prescriptions, can and do save both patients and doctors time, something bigger is needed to alleviate the strain that doctors in many parts of the country are facing due to overwork, as well as the increasing dissatisfaction many patients have with their medical care.
One recent development in medical technology might provide an answer to these issues. Remote patient monitoring systems allow doctors to keep an eye on their patients in real time from a personal computer or smart phone, no matter where they are or what time it is. This technology increases patients’ access to doctors and the care they provide as well as decreases the amount of time patients must wait to receive that care. Remote patient monitoring also allows doctors to decrease the amount of time they need to spend in the hospital or office, and can often prevent doctors from having to make unscheduled visits to see patients, reducing costs and increasing patient satisfaction and wellbeing.
Remote patient monitoring technology works by using a series of monitors that are attached to a patient’s body. The monitors record data such as blood pressure, blood oxygen level and heart rate, twenty-four hours a day, which doctors can access any time they need to.
The software provided by many remote patient monitoring systems can be very valuable for doctors who are caring for patients with chronic illnesses, severe allergies, cancer, dementia, infertility, or high risk pregnancies because it can be used when a patient is at home, as well as when they are in the hospital. The software can alert a doctor when one of their patients is at risk of having a heart attack, needs immediate medical attention, an increase or decrease in medication, or has some other urgent medical need. Patients themselves can also use this software to monitor their own health, helping them to better keep track of times when they may need to make a change in their diet or behavior, or seek out urgent care.
Another way that both doctors and patients can benefit from remote patient monitoring systems can be seen in hospital and doctors office waiting rooms. Because these systems are able to keep such accurate track of patients’ health around the clock, follow up visits to the doctor often become unnecessary, freeing up appointment time for patients who actually need to be there in person. This decreases patient wait times for appointments and allows doctors to spend more time with patients in person. Improved doctor patient relationships almost always result in better patient outcomes and higher patient satisfaction. Fewer in-office visits also means fewer medical bills that patients have to pay.
These remote patient monitoring systems are also helpful in conducting medical research. Patients participating in clinical trials, for example, can be monitored without them having to make frequent visits to a clinic or doctors office, making the research process easier for patients, more efficient and less expensive.
Remote patient monitoring is also valuable for doctors and patients because it stores historical patient health data, allowing a doctor to see patterns in a patient’s health data over time. Data is often stored on site at a doctors office or hospital as well as off site at a second location monitored by the remote patient monitoring provider, reducing the risk that data could be lost due to a computer system failure, severe weather event or other type of disaster.
Remote patient monitoring systems have also shown promise in helping doctors to care for nontraditional patients, such as those who might be in prison, a nursing home, or in a mental health institution who are unable to leave the premises. These systems have also been shown to be valuable when treating military veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and other combat-related health issues.
As time goes on and remote patient monitoring systems become more common, even more cost-saving and health benefits are sure to be realized for patients and doctors alike.