Here’s a lesser known component of telehealth.
Telehealth has long been a possibility for doctors and patients to connect, but as the COVID-19 pandemic flooded hospitals and demanded that everyone stay home as much as possible, it has suddenly become a staple of health care.
Still, when most people think of telehealth, they tend to think of just live video conferencing with a doctor. In reality, telehealth consists of several components, and those options will likely grow as telehealth matures and providers find creative ways to assist their patients from afar.
One lesser known (but just as promising) component of telehealth is called remote patient monitoring, or RPM. This is a way for doctors to monitor vital signs or other health measurements remotely.
Managing a disease by tracking health numbers is nothing new. For example, blood sugar tests can reveal how well you’re managing your diabetes, and blood pressure tests can help monitor heart disease and the risk of a heart attack. While the numbers alone don’t tell the whole story, they can be a very useful and informative tool.
If numbers are staying stable or improving, your doctor knows the condition is under control or your treatment regimen is effective. On the other hand, if numbers continue to be worsening or out of the target range, your doctor may suggest changes to your treatment plan.
That’s where RPM comes in: It’s a way for your doctor to keep an eye on your numbers from a distance. This can be especially useful if:
You live in a rural or isolated area
It’s difficult for you to make frequent trips to your doctor’s office (due to a disability, for example)
Here’s how it works: You will keep a health-monitoring device at home. This could be as simple as a blood pressure monitor, or it could be a “wearable” that constantly tracks vital signs, such as respiration rate, pulse, body temperature, and step counts.
Your doctor will help make sure you know how to properly use the device so that you’re getting the most accurate results. Then, the collected data gets sent to your doctor. They can get alerts if your device indicates trouble, such as an increase in temperature (i.e., you have a fever) or drops in respiration levels.
Additionally, your doctor can notice non-urgent but troubling trends from the data, and they can offer suggestions to improve treatment outcomes. Not only does this help your disease management, but it can reduce your risk of complications and emergencies. (Bonus: Avoiding the ambulance and the ER can save you a lot of money.)
Think remote patient monitoring might help your health? Talk to your doctor about your options—telehealth is now more accessible than ever before.
Telehealth. Washington, DC: MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine. (Accessed on May 7, 2020 at https://medlineplus.gov/ency/patientinstructions/000919.htm.)
Telehealth basics. Arlington, VA: American Telemedicine Association. (Accessed on May 7, 2020 at https://www.americantelemed.org/resource/why-telemedicine/.)