Patient health monitoring: Improving quality of care with real-time analytics

Technical Writer

Home patient health monitoring isn't a new trend, but in the past, providers depended on patients remembering to take and accurately report their blood pressure, heart rate and other vitals. Additionally, there were often days or weeks of lag time from when the data was collected to when the doctor received it. Internet of Things (IoT) sensor technology and data analytics now allow doctors to see real-time data from individuals, often without the patient having to manually record or transmit it.

Benefits of real-time data monitoring

Remote monitoring with real-time data can spot patterns or areas of concern, allowing healthcare professionals to intervene much quicker than if there was a reporting delay. Predictive analytics also allow physicians to compare real-time patient data from monitoring devices to medical baselines, helping them predict which patients are likely to develop complications and need further intervention.

This type of preventive, at-home monitoring could be extremely beneficial not just for patients, but for the healthcare industry as a whole. According to a recent Goldman Sachs report summarized by Business Insider, remote patient monitoring could save over $305 billion in healthcare costs, especially through monitoring patients with chronic diseases, such as heart disease, asthma and diabetes. The report also states that the healthcare community is surprisingly willing to explore digital health solutions such as remote patient monitoring.

The following are a few examples of how healthcare systems are currently using this technology to save money and provide more informed care to their patients.

Customized monitoring systems

According to mHealth News, Northern Arizona Healthcare's "Care Beyond Walls and Wires" program monitors patients using a smartphone application and customized medical devices that vary by condition. Data from the devices is captured in the smartphone application and automatically sent to the patient's medical providers, who can then review it for warning signs or concerning patterns. Estimates from the first 50 patients in the program showed an estimated $92,000 in savings per patient in six months, as well as significant decreases in the rate of hospitalizations and days spent in the hospital.

This type of technology can be customized not only for specific patient needs, but for unique conditions, too. Scripps Translational Science Institute is currently working on monitoring technology that will help workers provide quality care to Ebola patients without putting themselves at risk of contracting the disease. The project will use a sensor similar to an adhesive bandage to take patients' vital signs with two wireless monitors. Through this method, early signs of the disease can be detected while minimizing staff exposure to the virus.

Personal mobile devices for remote monitoring

David Bates, professor at Harvard Medical School and chief of the Division of General Medicine at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, told the American Association of Family Physicians about how physicians can use accelerometers, which are already in most smartphones, to track the movements of post-surgical patients or those with chronic conditions. By using data analytics to flag patients with decreased movement, physicians can be alerted to those whose conditions are deteriorating, prompting real-time check-ins when needed.

Smartwatches are increasing in popularity and can also be used for at-home monitoring. According to mHealth News, the Sense4Baby platform allows expecting mothers to check their baby's heart rate using either a smartphone or Apple Watch. The woman can then send the real-time data to a pediatrician without having to perform any extra steps. This allows the doctor to immediately determine if the unborn baby is in distress or if the mother needs to come in for additional monitoring.

As these examples show, real-time patient health monitoring and savvy use of data analytics can help healthcare providers to improve their quality of service while also boosting health outcomes.