The Future is Virtual: How Monitoring Patients via the Cloud Can Revolutionize Healthcare
The United States leads the world in medical research and is recognized for cutting edge hospitals and pioneering groundbreaking medical technologies. Despite these advantages, a high proportion of Americans have difficulty accessing the healthcare they need.
There are several reasons for this: one is that large parts of the country are rural and remote; another is cost; a third is the US has a shortage of family physicians, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians*.
These are all challenges that have caused the healthcare infrastructure to creak and, to a certain extent, fail. But with the research, knowhow and the technology we have, these are problems that can be solved. Today.
Remote patient monitoring (RPM) via the cloud uses digital technology to track, communicate and store the health data of patients from anywhere, in real-time, securely and safely. By making RPM a cornerstone of the healthcare system, we can give patients greater ownership of their personal health, enabling better patient outcomes while reducing the burden on hospitals and medical staff.
Raising the Bed Count
Virtual hospitals are a new approach to healthcare, pioneered by public health expert Professor Rod McClure, Dean of Medicine at University of New England. McClure has developed virtual hospitals in the US and Australia, using wireless technology to monitor patients’ vital signs remotely. This approach has enabled medical teams to oversee hundreds of ‘beds’ at any given time, improving resource utilization and alleviating the strain on physical hospitals.
The initial use case for virtual hospitals was to provide remote healthcare for patients with chronic conditions, such as cardiovascular disease, arthritis, diabetes, asthma, cancer, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), many of whom live a long way from their nearest hospital. In the US, around one in two adults over the age of 18 have at least one of these chronic conditions. By monitoring them in virtual hospitals, the burden on the bricks and mortar healthcare infrastructure could be alleviated significantly.
Increasing Patient Safety
A further advantage of virtual hospitals materialized when Covid-19 struck. The need to keep patients isolated was sudden and extreme. In Australia, a virtual hospital McClure was setting up for chronic patient monitoring in New South Wales was rapidly pressed into action for monitoring Covid patients.
By keeping more Covid sufferers at home until or unless their symptoms became severe, NSW Health was able to mitigate the risk to medical staff and other patients and to help contain the spread of the virus.
The level of monitoring achievable with remote devices like the Caretaker 4 is another benefit for patients and their physicians. Beyond the ICU, traditional monitoring is carried out intermittently: typically, every four hours by a nurse on the general ward, or even more infrequently once a patient has been discharged.
Caretaker 4 provides ICU level, beat-by-beat monitoring, which means changes in a patient’s condition are detected immediately, enabling earlier intervention and preventing potentially fatal events. At home, a patient’s beat-by-beat data is relayed via the cloud to a central monitoring station, where hundreds of other patients can all be monitored at the same time, in real-time. Any sign of trouble triggers an alert and a doctor responds immediately.
More Secure Data Storage
Patient data is a key component in improving the quality and breadth of healthcare. Remote patient monitoring offers a clear advantage in this respect.
In many hospitals, patient notes are still recorded on paper and then inputted manually into the electronic medical record. This is a time-consuming and potentially fragile system, whereby records can get lost or mixed up, and errors can creep in at the collection and input stages. With digital monitoring, the data is transmitted directly to the computer database and securely stored, without any human involvement that could compromise it.
The volume of data that can be gathered and processed is vastly superior to the manual paper method, and with the development of AI and machine learning, it can paint a picture of an individual patient’s condition, and the condition in general, that is far more informative for researchers and clinicians looking for the best course of treatment.
Time to Get Serious
Telehealth and remote monitoring were conceived primarily to serve people living in remote locations, where it was difficult to get to a health center or for doctors to go out to them. But it is becoming increasingly evident that remote monitoring can play a vital role in improving the efficiency, accessibility and efficacy of healthcare in general.
Covid-19 has highlighted its advantages in a situation where isolation is necessary and the situation can change rapidly. But there are long-term benefits to monitoring patients with chronic medical conditions and patients of all demographics – and that is the bigger picture.
Caretaker Medical is a Wireless Digital Health company that has developed a continuous ‘beat-by-beat’ Blood Pressure and Vital Signs monitor that eliminates blind spots between traditional intermittent spot-check monitors and untethers patients from mobility-restricting wires and hoses. The FDA-Cleared Caretaker4 wireless monitor utilizes a simple finger cuff and patented Pulse Decomposition Analysis technology to measure uninterrupted blood pressure, hemodynamics, and other parameters for wire-free, “touchless” remote patient monitoring that maximizes patient comfort and clinical decision-making. For more information, please visit www.CaretakerMedical.net.