According to the CDC, Americans visit the emergency room nearly 130 million times per year.1 Emergency care is one of the most important services provided by our healthcare systems, but not every visit is a life-threatening emergency. 

Many people visit the ER because they do not know if they are experiencing a life-threatening emergency or not. For example, they may be having chest pains or experiencing unusual weakness that they cannot easily explain. Others visit because it’s the fastest way to receive care.

But a trip to the ER can easily cost $1,000 per visit2—even with insurance—and this type of care is not financially sustainable for chronic conditions. For life-threatening emergencies, there is simply no better option. But what about when your healthcare needs require regular monitoring and observation, such as with chronic conditions like diabetes or COPD? 

This is why many doctors are turning to remote health monitoring for certain patients. This article will help you understand:

  • What remote health monitoring is 
  • Why doctors choose remote health monitoring
  • How remote health monitoring benefits family caregivers (and their loved ones)

A doctor using remote health monitoring to check on a patient
A doctor uses remote health monitoring to make notes about a patient’s health status.

What is Remote Health Monitoring? 

Remote health monitoring is a form of patient care in which the provider sends the patient home with one or more remote health monitoring devices that can monitor their vitals from the patient’s home. This allows the patient to follow a more normal routine while the healthcare team monitors their vitals for abnormalities (be it after discharge from a hospital or simply after a regular checkup). 

Many chronic conditions can be monitored remotely, including:

  • Heart disease
  • Coronary artery disease
  • Stroke
  • Hypertension
  • COPD
  • Diabetes and prediabetes
  • Obesity

Below are two examples of how remote health monitoring in the real world: 

Bill (68)

Bill is a 68-year-old marketing professional who still works full-time at his employer. The work can be stressful, and he has begun to notice discomfort in his chest, especially under high stress. At least, he hopes it’s just stress. One day, the discomfort turns to pain, and Bill goes to the ER to make sure he’s not having a heart attack. 

After hours of evaluations and tests, the doctor informs Bill that his blood pressure is out of the normal range, prescribes a new medication to address the issue, and sends him home. Four weeks later, the pain is back, this time accompanied by an unfamiliar feeling of weakness. Bill returns to the ER, where he is kept overnight for observation. With no clear answers the next day, he remains a second night so that his vitals can be monitored over a longer period. Again, the results point to his unregulated blood pressure. 

While Bill is relieved, he doesn’t understand how to interpret his symptoms and wonders how many more costly and concerning trips to the ER will be required before the medical team determines the right treatment plan. 

This is where remote health monitoring can be used to save significant amounts of time and money. Instead of admitting Bill to the hospital, the doctor can give him a remote blood pressure monitor. This lets Bill and the doctor see exactly what’s going on and have an informed conversation before taking a trip to the ER. This reduces anxiety, saves money, and allows both doctor and patient to develop an informed care plan.

Sara (72)

Sara is a 72-year-old heart failure patient who spends most of her days very active — gardening, riding her bike, and taking nature walks. Sara takes her medication on most days and strives to eat a well-balanced low sodium diet. On occasions, Sara notices her legs swelling, increased fatigue, and dizziness. She shrugs off the symptoms as just “overdoing it” and goes to bed. 

During the night, Sara wakes to find herself lying on her bathroom floor. She does not know what happened and decides to call 911 as she is not feeling well. Upon arrival at the ER, Sara is diagnosed with an acute heart failure exacerbation — her blood pressure is low, her pulse is high, and her weakness is worsening. With medication adjustments, Sara returns home in a couple of days back to gardening, riding her bike, and taking her nature walks. Sara is discharged with orders to closely monitor her blood pressure and weight. 

This is a very familiar heart failure story. Fortunately, Sara and her physician are proactively monitoring her blood pressure and weight now through the use of remote health monitoring technology. Sara believes this added effort will help her and her physician know her numbers sooner than later and possibly prevent another unexpected visit to the hospital.

Why Doctors Choose Remote Health Monitoring

Remote health monitoring has become an invaluable and increasingly popular tool in the doctor’s caregiving toolbox. Doctors provide the patient with one or more smart devices that monitor their vitals from anywhere, and can even relay real-time data back to the doctor’s office or through a confidential monitoring service.

While some monitors require the patient to return the device to the doctor’s office for analysis,  some companies (such as Verustat) offer secure, intelligent, and unobtrusive Bluetooth devices that monitor a variety of conditions and automatically flag the patient’s care provider in the event of a reading that is too high or low for that particular patient. Then a representative from the doctor’s office will follow up with the patient and often set an appointment.

Here are four reasons why more doctors are turning to remote health monitoring with eligible patients:

  1. Less time in the hospital. Like Bill in the example above, remote health monitoring can help the patient and their care team determine if their current symptoms warrant a trip to the ER or simply an adjustment in their behavior or medication. Avoiding unnecessary hospitalization not only saves the patient money; it reduces stress on emergency healthcare providers and improves overall care.
  2. Keep care human. Instead of automated prompts for patients to call their doctor and all the accompanying phone menus and holds, remote health monitoring alerts the doctor or nursing staff about a potential issue and prompts them to call the patient personally. This provides immediate care and strengthens trust.
  3. Empowers patients to take charge. Remote health monitoring makes patients more aware of symptoms and the underlying causes, allowing them to identify patterns and make real-time changes to compensate. It also demystifies data and allows patients to take pride in their positive progress—or take action when necessary.
  4. Keeps high-risk patients connected to care. Whether it’s diabetes or heart disease, remote health monitoring provides high-risk patients with an assuring link to their healthcare team. Doctors receive regular updates that help inform treatment plans while the patient can spend less time in an examination room or ER. 

In short, remote patient monitoring provides patients and doctors with clarity and more proactive care. While it isn’t suitable for all patients, this technology can improve wellness, reduce anxiety, and allow more independence for patients with chronic conditions. 

Which is great news for family caregivers. Here’s why.

You can use remote health monitoring as a family caregiver

A family caregiver uses remote health monitoring with their loved one
Remotely checking things like your loved one’s blood pressure will keep them healthier and give you more peace of mind.

At the heart of every family caregiving relationship is a pressing question: How do I protect the health and safety of my loved one when I can’t be with them?

If you are a family caregiver to an aging parent or loved one, you have to find the balance between tending to your loved one’s needs while preserving their independence. In other words, you don’t need to be present for every blood pressure check. 

Much like the doctor who prescribes a remote health monitoring device to a patient, you need to be sure that your loved one’s health is monitored at regular intervals based on your unique caregiving plan. 

The good news is remote health monitoring is now available for at-home use without a doctor having to provide the device. Services like Connected Caregiver build on the same technology used by doctors and allow family caregivers to check in on their aging parents and loved ones no matter where they are. Bluetooth-enabled monitors send real-time updates to the Connected Caregiver app, and can even alert the caregiver and/or the patient’s medical care team if readings are abnormal (or simply forgotten). Connected Caregiver also allows you to create a digital health & care record and track important things like appointment notes, vitals readings, medications, and notes from your care circle.

While there is no substitute for supervised medical care, remote health monitoring empowers families to: 

  • Take charge of daily care
  • Avoid unnecessary ER visits
  • Provide better data to medical teams
  • Reduce anxiety when loved one and caregiver are apart

To learn more, check out our remote health monitoring service, or take our brief quiz to see what’s right for you and your loved one.