Can RPM Help Improve Healthcare Outcomes in a Developing and Vast Country like India?

Can RPM Help Improve Healthcare Outcomes in a Developing and Vast Country like India?

Remote patient monitoring (RPM), also known as telemonitoring or in-home monitoring, utilises connected electronic devices to record personal health and medical data at one location for review by a healthcare provider in another location, facilitating real-time monitoring and management of patients remotely. An RPM system comprises of medical devices (with or without Bluetooth connectivity), web or mobile apps for both patient and the healthcare provider, and a cloud-based health management database or service. The system is set up to monitor vital signs – physiological markers such as BP, heart rate, temperature, and Oxygen saturation (SPO2) – or other health parameters such as glucose, respiratory, biomarkers, etc.

RPM is best suited for patients with chronic diseases that require constant monitoring, post-operative patients, elderly or frail patients, and patients in rural areas with limited access to healthcare facilities. Moreover, RPM gained popularity and witnessed significant uptake during Covid-19 and became the ‘talk of the town’ globally due to its flexible applications. Studies have shown that RPM implementation, when applied to the targeted categories, leads to reduced emergency visits and readmissions to hospitals, cuts healthcare costs, and improves medication compliance for patients. And as such, it facilitates freeing up hospital beds for emergencies and critical care. Further, for clinicians and doctors, RPM improves data-driven decision making, increases one-on-one patient engagement, and prevents the spread of infectious diseases.

With deficient hospital infrastructure, acute shortage of doctors, nursing staff and equipment, along with dearth of treatment facilities in rural areas, India’s healthcare system needs to undergo significant transformation and investment. Hence, it would be prudent for government as well as private healthcare service providers to explore RPM deployments and costs, and work collaboratively for improved healthcare outcomes. India is an established player in Pharma and medical services, however, for Medical Devices, India is dependent on imports (~85%). Given India’s healthcare system, there are several factors that indicate gaps which can be effectively plugged by alternate approaches to traditional healthcare such as RPM:

  1. Building and Infrastructure – India has 0.5 hospital beds per 1,000 people compared to 2.4 per 1,000 in both USA and UK. India requires healthcare delivery facility every 3 – 4 kms to cover the needs of its population (assuming standard less than 30 minutes of walking distance from habitation). Although physical buildings may be present, they are not fully functional and hence, RPM could bridge this gap.
  2. Human Resource – India has 0.8 doctors for every 1,000 people compared to 2.6 doctors in USA and 3.2 doctors in the UK serving same population size. RPM can be a solution to this acute staff shortage. However, for RPM to take off, patient and staff training is a must for understanding mobile RPM app, use of medical devices, capturing the vitals readings, etc.

There are several factors which create the suitable bedrock for RPM deployments in India. The country has good national telecom coverage, enabling last mile connectivity which is further boosted by 5G. Also, the Production Linked Incentive (PLI) scheme under ‘Make in India’ for medical devices to the tune of $456m and the Promotion of Medical Devices Parks Scheme will give impetus to the production of medical devices within India.

In India, over the past few years, companies have tried their hands on various RPM solutions, but have not been able to scale up at the national level. Some of the RPM solutions in India include CarePlus platform-as-a-service by Infosys, AI-powered bedside vital sign monitoring system by Medtronic India and Stasis Health, contactless vital sign monitoring sensor and bedside device by Dozee, Real-Time Health Monitoring System (RTHMS) by Honeywell, and automated AI tool AutoMaid patient monitoring system by Apollo Hospitals. Despite these attempts, RPM has not picked up to scale.

The process of increasing the use of technology in healthcare requires improvement in areas, such as the legal frameworks and protection for medical professionals, interoperability protocols, cyber security measures, authentication procedures, and regulatory frameworks for algorithms. The coverage and expansion of RPM will be beneficial for India, but its implementation must be closely monitored to make it a success.

Author: Shivam Agarwal,

Assistant Consultant, Strategy Consulting

Photo by Jair Lázaro on Unsplash

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