Twenty years ago, when we founded our healthcare IT-focused public relations and marketing firm, patient monitoring did not typically leave the four walls of the hospital. Our clients at the time were among the first to design software and devices that intelligently alerted nurses and physicians on the hospital floor to patients who required attention.
Since then, however, our clients’ patient monitoring solutions offer a much broader set of capabilities. The massive expansion of wireless broadband Internet connectivity in the past two decades, along with improvements in wearable sensors and burgeoning data analytics and AI technology (not to mention COVID-19), has shifted monitoring outside hospital buildings and into the home. For monitoring solutions inside the hospitals, our clients today have designed sophisticated integrated systems – also using sensors and AI — that predict potential risks to the patients’ and well-being so nurses can respond before an adverse event occurs.
Not just the care setting has changed, either. Clients are coming to us with solutions that support monitoring for chronic conditions that, while not as comprehensive as it is for acute care, still deliver biomarker and other data to inform providers in health systems miles away. This data combined with analytics updates providers on patients’ post-acute recovery, adherence to new medication regimens, or potential signs of a downturn in their conditions.
In greater detail, the following are some examples of how the patient monitoring market is changing based on our team’s expertise and our clients’ solutions.
When I founded the agency, the idea that patients with acute illnesses requiring hospital admissions could be safely and effectively cared for at home was an unrealistic, expensive novelty. Yet only a few years ago, hospital at home became technologically feasible and cost effective, so much so that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in 2020 launched the Acute Hospital Care at Home program, which reimburses hospitals the same payment for care delivered inside one of their facilities or patients’ homes. In late November, 305 hospitals across 129 health systems in 37 states had earned a waiver to participate in the program, which has already demonstrated an encouraging safety record, according to a study CMS published in JAMA in November 2023. Clients have also helped hospitals expand beyond acute hospitalization to post-acute and skilled nursing care at home.
- Tech-Enabled Hospitals
Patient monitoring inside hospitals has also become more technologically advanced, enabling safer, preventive interventions based on remote data collection and analysis to support care decisions. For example, hardware and software infrastructure platforms are now available to operate tech-enabled hospitals where monitoring devices track not only patient vital signs, but also movements. The system continuously collects and analyzes data from a computerized camera and sensor network data collected from numerous points throughout the hospital. Along with video and voice-activated services, these platforms help providers view and communicate with patients, as well as automate tasks to support shorter hospital stays.
Similarly, more hospitals are taking advantage of telenursing solutions that effectively put a virtual nurse inside a patient’s room that the patient can communicate with through a monitor. Many call requests do not require an in-person response, which, in turn, takes the nurse away from another patient’s room who may have a more serious health concern. Telenursing protects patients’ safety through a faster response to concerns, but can also alert a nurse if the patient, for example, gets out of bed against the hospital’s rules and risks falling. Numerous studies have been published showing how telenursing technology reduced hospital fall rates, which protects patients’ safety while lowering costs for hospitals.
- Remote Patient Management
Although remote patient “monitoring” is the official term when providers periodically collect and interpret data from patients at home regarding their condition, what our clients typically offer today is more accurately called remote patient “management.” Their solutions enable providers to do much more than observe, but rather adjust care plans and intervene with patients based on the wide variety of data collected, including feedback they receive from patients’ electronically reported outcomes and video visits. AI is also supporting RPM more directly by notifying providers when a patient’s condition is on a downward trajectory before they even notice any changes. It’s this kind of predictive monitoring that is one of the most truly exciting and encouraging developments in health tech today.
- Whole-Person Focus
The mental health crisis exacerbated during the COVID-19 pandemic shined a much-needed light on the tremendous need for mental, behavioral and emotional healthcare and support. Given the severe lack of mental health professionals in many parts of the U.S., digital health companies are stepping up to fill those gaps with virtual care beyond routine counseling sessions to include monitoring where patients at any time can engage a clinician or a mobile app to help them cope with challenging situations. Providers are then notified when patients may be struggling to manage their conditions.
New Technology, Same Goal
While all of the technology developed in the past 20 years to help improve the speed, accuracy and scope of patient monitoring, the ultimate goal has not changed: to improve patient outcomes. In that regard, we are learning sooner if we are reaching those goals thanks to the abundance of data that we collect and analyze.
In the next 20 years, it is unlikely that we will have eradicated the physical and mental health conditions that are today responsible for most hospitalizations and early deaths, but I’m confident that digital health solutions will help us better manage them, while improving the care experience for patients and providers.