How to Develop Remote Patient Health Monitoring Platforms
Alex Ptashniy, CTO
From doctors transmitting EKGs by phone in the 1960s to the remote checkups, many patients have on their phones today, telecommunications has been vital to healthcare infrastructure for decades. The steady advancement of biomedical technologies coupled with the sudden demands of the global COVID-19 pandemic make remote patient health monitoring systems more important to patient outcomes than ever before.
These systems are revolutionizing healthcare, but the transition isn't always an easy one. This guide provides an overview of potential benefits, trends to watch, and strategic approaches to the challenges of remote patient monitoring.
What is a remote patient health monitoring platform?
A remote patient monitoring platform is a system that collects and transmits patient health data to providers, usually from the patient's home. With these data, clinicians can see real-time changes in their patients' conditions and intervene appropriately. Specialties that use remote monitoring technology include cardiology, endocrinology, pulmonology, oncology, and mental and behavioral health.
Remote patient monitoring (RPM) is an important branch of the wider field of telemedicine. Depending on treatment goals, the technical details of remote health monitoring system creation will vary, but the basic components do not: hardware, software, transmission, and security.
Monitoring devices directly collect the data you need to assess and treat your patients. They may track a patient's vital signs, physical activity, blood pressure, blood glucose, or oxygen saturation. Often they'll be wearable devices like a Fitbit, but they could be appliances like a CPAP, a tablet, or the patient's own phone.
The software is the engine powering your patient remote monitoring system, whether that's a cutting-edge sensor or a simple phone app. It must secure sensitive health data, integrate with providers' electronic medical records (EMR) software, and—perhaps most importantly—be very easy to use.
Data collected by a remote healthcare monitoring system must be sent to healthcare providers for use in treatment. Devices might rely on Bluetooth or WiFi, but cellular technology is often the most reliable and easiest for patients.
Most data collected by a remote patient monitoring platform is legally categorized as protected health information (PHI). As a result, any RPM system must include access and transmission security, while at the same time being simple for both patients and providers to use.
Remote patient monitoring platforms creation in the telehealth age
The importance of RPM in healthcare has surged in the last few years and continues to expand. Between 2008 and 2022, the US remote patient monitoring market grew from $60.7 million to $535.6 million, more than 880%. Already in 2016, over a third of American health organizations identified RPM as an area of infrastructure to focus on to improve patient experience, and similar trends have been reflected elsewhere in North America and in Europe.
Why is remote health monitoring system development so key to the future of healthcare?
The telehealth boom
There's no way around it: going to the doctor is inconvenient. It may require time off work or school, and travel costs can be significant, especially for patients who live in rural areas.
Telehealth was growing in popularity before the pandemic hit, but the pandemic has accelerated that growth tremendously. Even beyond reducing COVID transmission, many patients have found they prefer the convenience of remote appointments instead of visiting doctors in person. Advancements in RPM allow healthcare practices to continuously expand the services they can provide remotely.
Benefits to patients
Remote monitoring gives clinicians real-time insights into their patients' health, which facilitates early detection and intervention, simplifies medication management, and improves treatment outcomes. It can also help patients stay home after a procedure. Historically, a high percentage of hospital readmissions have stemmed from patients presenting with symptoms that may only require observation, not treatment. Wearable trackers let those patients recover in the comfort of their own homes while hospital beds stay open for those who need them.
Benefits to providers
For both small practices and large hospital networks, RPM offers opportunities to streamline operations and reach more patients. As a result, it means lower costs and increased revenue. But the foremost benefit to providers is simply the ability to provide better care, which leads to higher satisfaction for doctors and patients alike.
Requirements to develop patient health tracking software
There are significant challenges to implementing RPM effectively. Remote patient monitoring platforms development has to address use cases with life or death stakes. Monitoring devices have to be usable by patients who may be seriously ill and frontline clinical staff under constant pressure. As a result, these four features are a must regardless of your practice's specialty or patient population.
Technology that staff or patients can't or won't use is, well, useless. Comfort with new technology will vary widely among any group of patients or even doctors. Sick patients may not have the bandwidth to figure out a complicated interface; clinical staff may not have the time. Health monitoring software development has to be completely in sync with realities on the ground.
Data has to get from patients to providers before it can help anyone, and that's often easier said than done. Bluetooth pairing can be tricky for users; WiFi may not be reliable, especially for patients who live in rural areas. Cellular is usually the top choice for monitoring devices, but even that isn't foolproof, especially if the patient needs to travel.
Secure data handling
Regulatory requirements for managing health data are strict, and failure to comply can result in fines or penalties. Privacy is a top concern for many patients as well, and any breach can seriously damage a practice's reputation. RPM systems have to be secure without impeding use, and that can be a fine line to walk.
Healthcare regulations impact both hardware and software design for remote patient monitoring. In the United States, physical devices have to be FDA approved, while apps, databases, and hosting absolutely must be HIPAA-compliant. Laws will vary in other regions, but in most countries, the healthcare sector sets among the highest quality and privacy standards for its tech.
How to create patient health monitoring systems that enhance your practice
If you're considering remote patient health monitoring, you're considering not just the technology itself, but a comprehensive program to integrate that technology smoothly with the rest of your practice. Like all change, this can quickly become overwhelming. To keep your project on track, break the process down into four basic steps.
Before you start investing, get clear answers to a few key questions. What problems are you hoping to solve with this technology? Which patients will you use it with? What challenges do you expect? How will you measure success?
Your initial evaluation will likely be internal. Once you have consensus and a direction, it will be time to choose a development partner whose technical insights can help you refine the details and scope of your project.
Change is hard in any organization, and medical practices are no different. Even innovations that incontrovertibly make work easier will at some point be frustrating, as well, and those frustrations can kill a project without enough momentum. To ensure staff buy-in later, lay groundwork now. If your people are clear on what opportunities RPM offers them—if they're already excited about it—they'll be a lot more likely to power through the inevitable complications.
While your development partner sets out to make patient health monitoring software, you'll need to get busy planning for deployment. Some key considerations
Training: how much is necessary; when to provide it
Tech support: for both staff and patients
Workflow: integrating the new technology with existing operations
Quality measurement: mandatory and optional reporting
Documentation: realistic procedures and time allowances for staff to document quality metrics
It's likely your practice has already adopted at least one new technology in recent memory: electronic medical records (EMR). Take time to reflect on that process. What went well, and what would you like to do differently when you make the shift to RPM?
In an iterative process, developers will work up a prototype, elicit feedback, and then refine the system to pinpoint the needs of your staff and patients. Is the interface intuitive for everyone who must use it? Can the software be integrated with an existing EMR? Is the hardware practical? Does the software balance security with accessibility?
Responsive development and user acceptance testing will be crucial to producing a solution that staff and patients can embrace.
Once your new remote patient monitoring platform goes live, it's time to follow through on the plans you made for training, troubleshooting, and tracking the new system's impact on your practice.
Monitoring, reporting, and evaluation (MRE) are sometimes the first corners that get cut under the daily stresses of actually providing care. Make sure not to skimp on MRE. The information you gather here will be critical to making informed decisions about maintaining and scaling the solution over time, as well as to justifying those decisions to stakeholders. Document improvements across metrics such as readmission rates, treatment plan adherence, and patient satisfaction.
Why create remote patient health monitoring systems?
Increased adherence to treatment plans
Small, simple interventions like medication reminders can translate to big improvements in patient compliance.
Fewer ER visits
Nearly a third of people living with chronic conditions have experienced a sudden medical emergency. Remote health monitoring can catch problems before they become acute.
Nearly forty percent of patients surveyed by Savanta MSI felt RPM gave them more control over their personal health.
Your staff went into healthcare because they wanted to help people. The National Institutes of Health finds that remote monitoring maximizes patient outcomes, which is something any clinician can celebrate.
Less time spent on in-person data collection and entry means smoother intake and workflow. As a result, practices can serve more patients better.
As the technological capabilities of the healthcare industry have expanded, insurance reimbursement has evolved to match. Moreover, as patients embrace the convenience of remote services, they increasingly choose providers who offer them over those who don't.
The costs of implementing remote patient monitoring are significantly lower than the costs of delayed intervention—for patients, providers, and the healthcare system at large.
Develop a game-changing remote monitoring platform with Integrio
An effective RPM platform can save and improve lives. A poorly implemented one can cost an organization both money and patient confidence. If it's time for your practice to make remote patient monitoring software part of its standard of care, choosing the right development partner is an important first step.
Integrio Systems brings both diversified and specialized experience to remote patient monitoring platforms development. Since 2000, we have seen 200+ projects through to success for organizations in a wide array of industries. As a result, our team has cultivated both deep technical skill and an unparalleled responsiveness to the realities our clients face.
In the healthcare sector, this has meant a tireless pursuit of the best possible user experience and an uncompromising commitment to security. Read about how Integrio helped one of Oregon's largest health insurance providers boost patient satisfaction and revenue.
Trends in both the telemedicine marketplace and healthcare system quality metrics paint a clear picture: remote patient monitoring delivers results, and it's on course to become the standard of care for many chronic conditions. Implementation poses technological, organizational, and educational challenges, but as with electronic medical records a decade ago, more and more practices see RPM adoption as a question of when, not if.
Being strategic about when can help providers minimize disruptions and maximize patient outcomes. Now is the time to consider what the shape of your practice will be in years to come. Perhaps that includes house calls at the push of a button.
A remote patient monitoring (RPM) system gathers vital health information on a device patients can use at home and sends it to healthcare providers for observation, assessment, and intervention.
RPM programs must be planned carefully and implemented realistically. Determine the needs of your patients and clinicians, and partner with a development company that can craft a solution that integrates as seamlessly with your operations as possible.
Technical challenges will vary by system type, but in all cases, success hinges on buy-in from staff and patients. Choose a development partner with robust experience in creating user-friendly interfaces and managing health data.