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Choosing the Best Remote Patient Monitoring Devices

February 23rd, 2021 | 8 min. read

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Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM) is a valuable Medicare program that utilizes intuitive digital technology to collect medical data from patients outside of traditional healthcare settings.

In the past few years, RPM has grown in popularity due to its many benefits, including additional revenue for providers, reduction in readmissions, and improved patient relationships.

The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated this growth even further as both patients and healthcare providers seek the convenience and value RPM provides.

We’ve already shown how to properly implement an RPM program, but providers have a wide range of RPM devices to choose from. Using the best RPM devices is an essential part of any successful RPM program and a crucial step that cannot be overlooked.

Utilizing subpar RPM devices can create frustration for your patients and staff, lead to poorer health outcomes, and ultimately cost your practice a lot of money.

So how can you avoid those mistakes?

Afterall, there are many types of RPM devices on the market, from Fitbits and wearable heart monitors to Bluetooth-enabled scales, glucose monitors, and more.

But what devices are the best and why? How do you choose the right device for your practice?

We’ve worked with hundreds of healthcare professionals across the country, many of whom are managing successful RPM programs. We’ve learned a great deal to help guide providers in managing a successful program.

In this article, we’ll first break down the two types of connectivity options you have with RPM devices. Afterwards, we’ll give you a list of the most common RPM devices, how they work, why you should use them, and tips for selecting the best devices.

Two Connectivity Options for RPM Devices

Before we go into the devices themselves, you need to know about the connectivity of the devices. RPM devices can transmit patient data via cellular or Bluetooth connection.

Since there are advantages and disadvantages to both options, it’s important to know which solution is right for your practice and your patients.

Cellular RPM Devices

Cellular RPM devices collect and transmit patient health information via the same networks that smartphones do. Because of this, companies offering cellular RPM devices will usually partner with one of the major cellphone providers to use their vast and stable network.

Advantages of Cellular Connectivity

The first big advantage to cellular connectivity is the network. Because cellular networks are so reliable, patients can transmit their information from anywhere their provider’s network is available.

The next advantage is that data is transmitted in real-time, allowing providers to be notified immediately of any concerning health status or changes.

Lastly, cellular RPM devices are ready to use out of the box, with no complicated setup required. This makes cellular RPM devices a preferred option for older populations or those who may not be as tech-savvy.

Disadvantages of Cellular Connectivity

Even though the cellular network is listed above as an advantage, there are a few disadvantages that come with cellular connectivity. Because it relies on cellphone networks, patients in rural areas may find it difficult to get good service.

Cellular RPM devices may also allow for two-way communication between patient and provider. While not all cellular RPM devices do have this feature, the underlying cellular network does allow for it.

Lastly, since these devices do rely on a cellular network if that network experiences outages, patients may not be able to transmit their data during that time. This can be particularly important if you have a high-risk patient who needs to be monitored closely.

Bluetooth RPM Devices

Bluetooth RPM devices send patient data over wireless connections to devices that are able to connect to the internet.

Advantages of Bluetooth Connectivity

The first and most obvious benefit of Bluetooth connectivity is that patients do not need to worry about outages to cellular networks. As long as patients have internet access and a Bluetooth-capable device, they’ll be able to transmit their data to the provider.

The next benefit of Bluetooth connectivity is the number of devices available to patients and providers. There is a much wider selection of RPM devices that use Bluetooth, and in fact, many patients may already own Bluetooth-capable devices.

Disadvantages of Bluetooth Connectivity

One of the biggest disadvantages of Bluetooth RPM devices is that since they do not operate on a cellular network, there is no built-in two-way communication between patient and provider.

Since RPM is meant to provide quality care between in-office visits, having a way to easily communicate within the device itself is advantageous.

Additionally, setting up Bluetooth RPM devices can be more difficult, especially for older populations. Bluetooth connections may require regular updates or have pairing issues that can be frustrating for patients.

Which Connectivity Option Is Best?

There is no one right answer for which RPM connectivity is the best option. Ultimately, this will depend on your goals for the RPM program, your current workflows, and most importantly, your patient population.

As we have shown above, both options have their advantages and disadvantages. If your patient population is older and the majority of your RPM program consists of Medicare patients, cellular RPM devices may be the better option due to their ease-of-use and simplicity.

If your patient population doesn’t have technological savvy as a strong barrier, then Bluetooth may provide more options to your patients. Some providers even use a mixture of cellular and Bluetooth devices if it makes sense for their practice.

The 4 Most Common Remote Patient Monitoring Devices

You’ll find RPM devices do come with both forms of connectivity, allowing providers to choose both the type of device and connectivity that best suits their program.

While choosing the connectivity option that’s right for your practice is important, now comes what devices should you choose. 

Like with the connectivity options, there is no one right answer. The devices you will choose will mostly be dependent on your patient population and their health needs.

With that in mind, we will provide an overview of a few of the most commonly used RPM devices.

1) Blood Pressure Monitor

Blood pressure monitors are one of the most highly used RPM devices. These monitors are easily used by patients to calculate the patient’s heart rate and blood flow.

The need for monitoring blood pressure via RPM is apparent. In 2018 the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that nearly half a million deaths in the United States included hypertension as a primary or contributing cause.

These RPM devices are great for providing ongoing virtual monitoring of a patient’s blood pressure and allow for better treatment of hypertension. An added benefit is the avoidance of “white-coat syndrome,” where blood pressure numbers may increase due to the stress patients experience when visiting a practitioner in-office.

2) Scale

Scales for RPM programs are great tools to closely monitor a patient’s health status. For example, patients with heart issues need their weight monitored closely, as even an increase of a few pounds could impact medication changes or prompt an office visit.

Much like hypertension, obesity is another health issue that affects a large number of people in the United States. In fact, the CDC noted that 42% of the U.S. population was obese in 2018.

With daily readings from scales, providers can better adapt their care to meet the patient’s needs and goals.

3) Blood Glucose Monitor

Monitoring blood glucose can be extremely important in keeping diabetes patients happy and healthy. Due to the nature of diabetes, patients may not experience symptoms until they reach hypoglycemia (glucose levels too low) or hyperglycemia (glucose levels too high). Leaving that untreated can lead to life-threatening conditions.

There are a variety of blood glucose monitors on the market, some of which don’t even require the patient to draw blood. Patients using blood glucose monitors can transmit their data directly to providers, allowing for around-the-clock monitoring of their levels to detect any alarming changes.

4) Pulse Oximeter

A pulse oximeter is used to measure a patient’s oxygen saturation level or the oxygen levels in their blood. The device can instantly detect even the slightest changes in how oxygen is being delivered throughout the patient’s body.

Pulse oximeters can be used to help manage any condition that can affect blood oxygen levels, including asthma, pneumonia, heart disease, and more.

Using Care Management Software To Manage Your Remote Patient Monitoring Program

To give your RPM program the best chance of success, we recommend using quality care management software. It also wouldn’t hurt to read up on our 10 tips to managing a successful RPM program.

There are numerous benefits of utilizing a quality care management software solution. The features and tools included in various software solutions are specifically designed to more effectively and efficiently manage all Medicare programs, not just RPM.

ThoroughCare’s RPM software solution provides extensive features and tools specific to RPM that make it the choice for hundreds of healthcare providers across the country.

Our solution showcases an intuitive design built for clinicians, by clinicians, with features including:

  • Registration of patient devices, with support for integration with over 350 remote monitoring devices
  • Tracking of multiple types of clinical data, from vital signs to blood glucose levels to work out details to sleep-related information
  • Visualization of clinical readings from within the patient care plans, including the ability to view multiple measurements across user-defined timeframes to help clinicians identify patterns in their patient's data
  • Configuration of target ranges (normal, caution, critical) for all data types, along with the ability to notify patients and clinicians through multiple communication channels (text, email, desktop notification) when patient readings fall outside of their physician's clinically-recommended range
  • Time management and billing capabilities to support adherence to the CMS RPM service requirements

If you’re still in the process of browsing your care management software options, we’re here to help since we know it can be a burden. Providers want to know what the benefits are, what features to look for, and how to choose the right options.

To help ease the buying process, check out our free buyer’s guide that walks you through the benefits and features of care management software, equipping you with the knowledge needed to select the best software for your practice.

If you’d like to see our software, request a software demo to schedule a live demo of ThoroughCare’s software.