The novel Coronavirus continues to spread across the United States, but our current focus is finding a solution to safely return to the office, open schools and play sports. Our efforts are on preventing new outbreaks (flu season is just around the corner) so new need approaches that will slow the spread of Covid-19 and flatten the curve for good.
Technology, with devices for contact tracing, remote care and thermal scanning, play a huge part in this. But that’s not enough. The next phase in fighting Covid-19 will be focused on using Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM) in order to predict potential outbreaks and detecting the virus in order to prevent exposure and spread.
Automated Remote Patient Monitoring
Before Covid-19, RPM was already substantially present in our health care system, with over 88% of providers saying that they have invested in or evaluated RPM technologies which mainly consisted of blood pressure cuffs and devices that measure glucose level. But, as the pandemic started to spread across the globe, healthcare providers started using RPM devices for chronic patient monitoring in order to minimize hospital visits and reduce the infection risk to vulnerable groups.
Furthermore, health care leaders took a new approach in monitoring patients (both asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic) for signs of Covid-19, or to even detect long-term side effects of the illness, such as heart and lung damage.
In March 2020 the FDA issued a policy update which will allow the use of non-invasive, vital sign-measuring devices to be used to monitor patients remoted during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Remote Patient Monitoring has a much larger potential than simply monitoring patients with chronic conditions or those who are reluctant in going to a hospital. Because RPM is non-invasive and digitally connected, healthcare providers can utilize the technology to measure temperature, lung function, blood pressure and other important vital signs to identify Covid-19 patients, and also to help with more serious issues, such as breathing problems.
Covid-19 Early Warning System
In order to accurately measure the change in one’s health status, more sophisticated RPM tools and technologies have emerged. These can continuously monitor key vital indicators and can detect changes in your health.
Patients that are able to monitor their oxygen level at home, have a better chance of identifying the early stages of pneumonia, which is, as we know, one of the key signs of Covid-19. So, if someone’s oxygen level drops below 93%, a doctor that monitor the patient’s vital signs can quickly arrange an inpatient care. This way the patient will be able to stay home and lower the risk of exposing other patients by going to the hospital.
With the help of high-resolution devices, like high-end smartwatches, providers can identify patients with possible Covid-19 infection, helping identify high-risk individuals as well as identifying patients that should be tested and isolated, limiting the spread of the disease.
Analyzing the best RPM solutions
With RPM being a key component in the fight against Covid-19, we will start to see additional solutions hitting the market. But how can we tell which one of them actually works, and which ones only try to capitalize during these desperate times? Generally, we can consider the following few questions when we evaluate the performance of an RPM tool:
Does it transfer Covid-19 specific information? Devices that can only monitor temperature or respiration aren’t really useful in detecting Covid-19 because they lack added sensitivity. Devices need to develop biosignature and detect Covid-19 in active stages.
How accessible is the tool? Most of the wearables are owned by healthy individuals and only serve the purpose of monitoring their vitals during fitness activities. But, Covid-19 can affect us all, even those that are less likely to purchase such device like elderly people, low-income people or minorities.
Will the data collected we be utilized to provide better care? Using RPM devices is still in its early stage, and at this time, no one can say for sure that it will absolutely work. But, there is an expectation that better predictions of infections can be achieved if we combine RPM devices with automated biometric data collection, health management systems and advanced analytics.
In order to continue our fight against Covid-19, the health care sector must exhaust every resource it has at its disposal. And even though technology is important in prevention, containment and recovery, the ongoing pandemic is really accelerating innovation in the entire health care system.