When it comes to real-time communications, we take a lot for granted. We expect the person we’re calling to always be available; we expect that a text sent will be instantly returned; and we expect that there will be no lag time between hitting the chat button and getting a response. But in the healthcare world, we don’t expect the same as we’ve been taught that waiting is a necessary evil and there is little available in real-time.
Fortunately, that appears to be changing. In the one industry where wait times can mean life or death, the demand for real-time communications is high. At the same time, patients want independence, the ability to recover at home and to know that they don’t have to return to the hospital. Remote monitoring is allowing that to happen and the activity, according to the Berg Institute, grew by 51 percent to reach 4.9 million in 2015. This number is projected by the same firm to reach 36.1 million by 2020.
This growth is fueled by the ability to connect and use devices that transmit key information to healthcare providers in real-time. The two main areas of focus, as highlighted in this M2M World News report, are monitoring patients with implantable cardiac rhythm management (CRM) devices and those with sleep therapy devices. These two verticals represent 81 percent of all connected home medical monitoring systems for 2015, with telehealth serving as the third largest segment with 0.41 million connections.
Much of this growth is possible thanks to solutions from companies like ResMed and Medtronic. While the latter surpassed 1 million remotely monitored patients in early 2015, the former took the lead in the market as the world’s largest provider of connected healthcare solutions for remote patient monitoring. The bulk of this focus has been in the sleep therapy segment where growth has been the strongest.
The most widely used connectivity technology to support real-time communications in patient monitoring is cellular. PSTN and LAN were once the preferred technologies, yet the PSTN subscriber base continues to decline sharply. LAN and Wi-Fi use for remote patient monitoring continues to be very limited. The reliability of cellular makes it the platform of choice when monitoring patients, according to Lars Kurkinen, Senior Analyst, Berg Insight. There is still also the potential for patients to use their own mobile devices as health hubs, although this use still represents a very small segment of the market.
What does this mean for the future of healthcare? While many of us don’t need to be monitored on a daily basis, we still want to know that information and help is close by when something goes wrong. Real-time communications offers significantly more in terms of patient satisfaction than what has been realized today. The next year is sure to bring new data to the mix as these concepts expand and all patients benefit.