Cellular connectivity sets a new standard for telehealth

Remote patient monitoring has been increasing over the last few years but, with home visits from healthcare professionals minimised because of COVID-19 lockdowns, services are poised to take off into the mainstream, writes Peter Fowler, SVP of Quectel.

As the coronavirus has spread rampantly in the US, even patients who typically make frequent trips to hospital or the doctor’s office are staying home. Instead, they are taking advantage of telehealth capabilities to ensure they are not exposed to the virus by unnecessary trips outside the home.

In fact, telehealth adoption may continue beyond the COVID-19 era because patients find it more convenient, it saves costs to health insurers and medical providers, and data can be gathered continuously.

top view of Medicine doctor hand working with modern computer and smart phone on wooden desk as medical concept

This is particularly important in geographically dispersed or remote locations where travel between patients means medical professionals can only visit a few patients each day.

Research firm Berg Insight has reported that about 18 million people in North America were using connected healthcare solutions at the end of 2018, with remote patient monitoring accounting for most users. The firm, before COVID-19 hit, estimated this figure would reach 49.4 million connected care users by 2024. Now, growth is likely to accelerate.

Of course, not all telehealth applications are the same. Simple monitoring of chronic conditions, such as diabetes or sleep apnea, can provide medical professionals with important insights into a patients’ status but this is often retrospective and does not allow for immediate action to be taken. Connecting the devices adds immediacy and enables data to be collected at regular intervals. Examples of seven-day heart monitoring or highly specific analysis of foot conditions for diabetes sufferers are now common.

Connecting wearables

However, connecting medical wearables is not always straightforward. Available internet access in patients’ homes is not a given, especially when you consider many are elderly and may not have Wi-Fi. In addition, unreliable and insecure networks pose obvious threats to patient welfare.

Medical icon network connection with modern virtual screen interface on hospital background, medicine technology network concept

Devices that are complex to configure, uncomfortable to wear or hard to use will not be accepted by patients. Telehealth therefore needs to rely on plug-and-play devices that simply turn on and can be utilised.

One company that is simplifying adoption of telehealth is Anelto, a US-based remote healthcare monitoring company that provides a two-way communication system to help monitor patient health. The company enables routine vital sign checks such as heart rate, temperature, blood pressure, oxygen levels and weight in addition to monitoring for chronic condition indicators such as blood sugar level.

Two-way comms

The two-way communication capability that Anelto offers with its devices, provides a vital means to increase patient acceptance. By being able to talk to the patient and guide them on how to operate devices, service providers can allay concerns and ensure data is collected accurately.

They can also add the patients’ own comments to aid their diagnoses. With physicians in the US being paid more for virtual visits and remote monitoring – a situation that is likely to continue after COVID-19 lockdowns – encouraging patient acceptance has clear business benefits for healthcare providers.

The barrier is enabling easy patient set-up and Anelto has chosen to use cellular connectivity to achieve this. In contrast to the complexities of configuring Wi-Fi, cellular devices can be switched on and automatically connect to provide secure, voice-centric communications.

“Anelto is setting the standard for in-home monitoring which improves patient engagement, safety and health outcomes,” says Mark Denissen, the CEO of Anelto. “Having cellular capability to ensure ease of connection, high availability and secure communications for patients.

This allays patients’ concerns and encourages use of telehealth services. We’re delighted with the performance of Quectel’s modules in our connected healthcare devices and the service and support we receive.”

To enable its devices with cellular capability, Anelto turned to Quectel to supply LTE modules that enable low-latency, two-way, voice-centric, secure communications for its solutions. The company has selected Quectel for its reliability and breadth of product portfolio in addition to the value-added services it provides.

With telehealth having already gained some acceptance, the constrained travel and human contact that will follow Covid-19 lockdowns will see wider acceptance. We are proud that Quectel is making this easy for patients and service providers with our innovative, high performance LTE modules.

The author is Peter Fowler, SVP of Quectel.

About the author

Peter Fowler

The author is Peter Fowler. In 2002 he launched Siemens Wireless Modules North America. That Siemens unit has changed hands several times since. However, the CEO in 2002, Norbert Muhrer, and current Quectel president and CSO are now reunited. Quectel claims to be the world’s largest module vendor. Peter lives in Point Roberts, WA and has three sons.

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