The past three years have brought seismic shifts to the delivery of healthcare.
An abrupt onslaught of patients during the pandemic stretched hospitals thin and fatigued many medical practitioners. But it has also revolutionized some parts of the health system—including telemedicine and remote patient monitoring (RPM).
As 2022 comes to a close, let’s look at eight key trends that shaped the RPM ecosystem throughout the year:
Growth in Market Reach
With greater patient and physician adoption, RPM continues to see an upsurge in demand in the post-pandemic era. The global RPM market is expected to skyrocket, rising from $1.51 billion in 2022 to $5.7 billion in 2027 — a compound annual growth rate of 20.1%.
Catalyzed by the pandemic, RPM’s use has been expanded from COVID-19 management to other chronic disease management. Healthcare systems are introducing hospital-at-home and post-operative care programs. Home healthcare agencies are utilizing virtual visits with their patients. Ambulatory care settings can use remote patient monitoring with a focus on preventing disease exacerbation and providing patient education. Hospitals are also increasingly using RPM to broaden access to healthcare to underserved populations, allowing them to close the health equity gap.
Demand for Telehealth Convenience
According to the HIMSS 2021 State of Healthcare Report, almost two third of patients surveyed preferred the convenience of telehealth compared with hospital visits. Seventy-seven percent of clinicians stated that they are interested in using artificial intelligence and machine learning technology in their practice, a sentiment shared by the providers.
Another report cited convenience and fast access to a provider were patients’ primary reasons they prefer telemedicine to in-person visits. With 94% of patients and family members saying that they would definitely or probably use telemedicine in the future, they agreed that providers are spending enough time with them virtually to provide quality care.
People are already using smartwatches to monitor their steps, heart rate, and sleep patterns. This coupled with medical wearables becoming more compact and less invasive, makes a transition to a medical-grade device to monitor their vitals minimally different. Miniaturization of medical devices also improves the quality of life. Patients no longer need to carry and store bulky devices. They can continue with their life without intrusive devices restricting their movements.
Increased Physician Adoption
Physicians are increasingly optimistic about incorporating digital tools into their day-to-day practice. An American Medical Association (AMA) survey revealed that physicians' enthusiasm for digital health tools rose from 85% in 2016 to 93% in 2022. The key drivers influencing their interest include improved clinical outcomes and work efficiency, as well as reduced patient and clinician stress.
With a host of smart RPM devices, such as blood pressure cuffs, pulse oximeters, and glucometers, physicians can monitor a patient’s disease and make clinical interventions in real-time from a remote location. The lasting positive clinical outcomes driven by RPM have accelerated its adoption.
The nursing shortage started before the pandemic due to economic downturns, retiring nurses, and increasing healthcare demands. The strain was exacerbated after the pandemic and has not seen much improvement.
The country needs more than 200,000 new registered nurses every year until 2030 to meet the current demand. However, the State of Nursing Survey revealed that 1 in 4 nurses was considering leaving the profession because of a morale decline, stress increase, and pay dissatisfaction.
Many healthcare providers are turning to RPM to reduce the risk of nursing burnout. With telehealth and RPM, nurses can provide care to patients from the patient’s home, thus reducing unnecessary emergency department visits and placing emphasis on reducing disease exacerbation through increasing patient education.
Rising Demand for Continuous Monitoring
The growing prevalence of chronic diseases such as hypertension, cardiovascular diseases, and diabetes led to the increasing demand for continuous monitoring. And this has propelled the growth of the RPM market.
One of the key successes of telehealth and RPM programs is their ability to manage risk alerts effectively. Physicians can use risk alerts to monitor key metrics such as blood pressure readings, heart rate, oxygen saturation, disease-specific symptoms, and medication adherence. When the biometric readings are outside of the set threshold, care can be escalated accordingly.
The House of Representatives passed the Advancing Telehealth Beyond COVID-19 Act of 2022, which extended Medicare coverage of telehealth services until at least December 31, 2024. The Act was initially set to expire on October 15, 2022, in line with the end of the COVID-19 public health emergency.
The passing of this Bill allows the extension of telehealth facilities without any geographical limitations, benefitting both rural and urban communities. It would also expand telehealth-eligible providers to include occupational therapy, physical therapy, and more.
Health Systems Demanding Deeper Integration and Program Centralization
With an increasing number of patients and limited resources, healthcare providers are looking for solutions that address their capacity challenges. Therefore, when evaluating an RPM solution, many providers prioritize deeper integration and program centralization. They want a dashboard that provides them clear visibility of their highest and lowest-risk patients and displays the most comprehensive snapshot of a patient’s case.
Additional consideration is given to RPM’s ability to integrate into electronic medical records, extending vendor support, effective workflow and communication, patient risk alerts, integrated data and dashboards, and cybersecurity.
RPM has been growing at an accelerated speed. It reduces healthcare providers' workload and makes it possible for a broader range of patients to have access to care. A win-win solution for payers, providers, and patients, RPM is on its way to becoming the new normal in the healthcare system.