Remote Patient Monitoring: 2014 Outlook

March 6, 2014
Kevin Jones

Pharmaceutical Executive

Historically, pharmaceutical companies have leveraged remote patient monitoring (RPM) in a very limited way to improve data collection in clinical trials.

Historically, pharmaceutical companies have leveraged remote patient monitoring (RPM) in a very limited way to improve data collection in clinical trials. A handful of Pharma companies have studied RPM as part of a treatment protocol and studied improvements in patient outcomes. This begs the question: Why hasn’t RPM caught on?

The first and most obvious answer is easy - it has historically cost too much and the technology was not particularly user-friendly. Most existing RPM systems cost thousands of dollars per patient, and are difficult to install and use, which further increases costs and decreases patient engagement. Generally, this has made remote health monitoring only marginally cost-effective for clinical trials and completely out of the question as a component of treatment “beyond the pill,” except for the highest risk patients taking the most expensive medications.

But the evolution of RPM technology – combined with the current needs of the pharmaceutical market – signifies an interesting turning point.

How RPM has changed
The good news is that the technology available today allows for new systems that are a fraction of the cost and are far easier for patients to use than those that have traditionally been available. RPM can now be cost-justified based on improvements to clinician productivity in clinical trials and as part of a treatment protocol for patients at moderate to high risk (e.g., on certain medications). Ease of use is greatly improved with no Bluetooth pairing, no extra steps required to send readings and the ability to use health meters in their natural locations in the home.

What this means for pharma
Pharma companies are looking for ways to differentiate and add value “beyond the pill” to patients, providers and payers. For example, some pharma companies are implementing platforms to increase patient engagement and medication adherence; to provide data to clinicians, enabling more timely interventions and improved decision making; and to provide patient self-management tools. These platforms also benefit companies by providing feedback on how their product is used and insights to improve patient interactions, treatment protocols and medication therapies.

However, historically, a big weakness of these engagement platforms is that they rely on the patient to manually enter health readings, which usually doesn’t happen. Not having health reading data (along with rapid feedback based on the readings) severely limits the potential of these platforms to improve patient engagement, and limits the value to patients, providers, payers and the pharma companies.

To realize the value of these patient engagement platforms, a cost-effective and easy to use RPM technology automates the transmission of health monitor data without the expense that has made the use of such technology cost-prohibitive in the past, and without the setup and system complexity that previously reduced the likelihood of actual usage of RPM by patients.

What’s next for RPM
Pharma is in the early stages of learning how to engage patients with their customer relationship management (CRM) programs. They need to learn how to enroll patients, keep them engaged, perform meaningful data analytics, and coordinate with providers and payers.

Low cost RPM has the potential to be a valuable tool for 50% of patients at risk versus the 5% highest at-risk patients currently. Protocols will evolve to identify the appropriate level of necesary support based on individual patient needs and characteristics. Eventually, RPM will enable patients to track their health at home and be more connected to their providers who can adjust treatment as needed based on higher frequency data, which will reduce expensive hospitalizations, improve patient outcomes, improve patient satisfaction and increase medication adherence.

Kevin Jones is CEO of Ambio Health.

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