‘Virtual healthcare options proved as the saving grace during the pandemic’

While telemedicine as a concept has been around for quite some time now, Remote Patient Monitoring is a relatively new concept for most of us in India. But the CORONA crisis that struck early last year made the not-so popular practice as the go-to service for many.

Dr Brajesh Kunwar

Virtual healthcare services such as telemedicine and Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM) have been of immense help during the pandemic. While telemedicine as a concept has been around for quite some time now, RPM is a relatively new concept for most of us in India. The CORONA crisis struck last year and changed the way doctor-patient interacted during the new normal. RPM gained popularity during the lockdown with healthcare providers preferring, adopting and recommending it. RPM services are more critical than ever because they enable physicians to monitor patients without meeting them, hundreds of miles away, thus cutting out the risk of being exposed to the novel coronavirus. Yet, many people still don’t know much about RPM. 

What is RPM health service? 

Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM) uses digital technologies to collect medical and other forms of health data from individuals in one location, and electronically transmit that information securely to healthcare providers in a different area for assessment. RPM allows providers to continue tracking healthcare data for patients once they are discharged. It also encourages patients to take more control of their health. Some of the benefits associated with RPM for patients include:

  • Better access to healthcare
  • Improved quality of care
  • Peace of mind and daily assurance
  • Improved support, education, and feedback

RPM v/s telemedicine and telehealth: 

While most of it may seem alike for patients, their application, interpretation differs in many ways. While RPM’s definition may seem straightforward, there is some confusion about the concept, including how it differs from telehealth. Distinguishing between remote patient monitoring and telehealth is vital for several reasons, including coding, billing purposes and patient understanding.

Telemedicine uses electronic information and communications technologies to provide and support healthcare when distance separates a doctor from the patient. The term is also applied more narrowly to medical applications that use interactive video, typically for specialty or subspecialty physician consultations. Telehealth includes telephones, facsimile machines, electronic mail systems, and remote patient monitoring devices, which are used to collect and transmit patient data for monitoring and interpretation. Therefore, understanding when to use RPM, or telemedicine is of utmost importance for a patient.

When should you opt for RPM? 

As RPM services are akin to telemedicine technologies, they automatically observe and report on patients, often with chronic illnesses, so caregivers can remotely keep tabs on patients. Moreover, they help in improving medical staff performance, avoid routine visits, and increase the quality of care. But patients need to know when to opt for such services. RPM services are meant for patients who are under a prescribed treatment regime. These services help patients monitor their blood pressure, diabetes, oxygen saturation levels and other health vitals. For more critical healthcare needs, patients need to connect with their doctors in person. Also, it is not advisable for new disease diagnosis.

(Dr Brajesh Kunwar is Director-Interventional Cardiology, Hiranandani Hospital, Vashi – A Fortis Network Hospital)

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