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Cellular vs. Bluetooth: Choosing the Right RPM Equipment to Boost Engagement

Conrado Tapado
Sep 13, 2021 8:52:00 AM

Choosing the right RPM equipment can mean the difference between the success and failure of your RPM program. It’s important to provide technology that enables patient engagement and offers the best experience. So, how do you choose between cellular and Bluetooth RPM equipment? 

How the Technology Behind RPM Works

RPM programs require the use of an FDA-defined medical device. Patients use this equipment to capture physiologic data from a remote location outside of the doctor’s office. Typically, this can be done in the comfort of their own home. Then, using either cellular or Bluetooth technology (depending on patient preference) the data are transmitted to a HIPAA-compliant secure server. 

After the data is transmitted, it can then be analyzed by the physician or other qualified healthcare practitioner (QHCP). Providers can also engage with patients via the portal in real-time. Based on data gathered, providers can then update or adjust care plans accordingly.  

Patient Engagement is Essential

An essential element of a successful RPM program is patient engagement. It may seem like an easy task to step on a scale, attach a blood pressure monitor, or attach a pulse oximeter. However, it’s just as easy to forget to do these mundane tasks. 

If the patient doesn’t make a habit of taking measurements, then no data is collected. In those cases, intervention from the doctor’s office or responsible care team must step in to prompt active patient engagement.

Cellular Vs. Bluetooth RPM Devices

There may also be technological barriers to patient engagement.  

All RPM equipment uses one of two data transmission methods: cellular transmission or Bluetooth transmission. Cellular RPM devices collect and transmit patient physiologic data over the same networks commonly used by cellphones. Conversely, Bluetooth RPM devices often require a pairing process with a hub or cellular phone to connect via the internet. 

There are advantages and drawbacks to both types of technology, so it’s important to know which solution provides the best experience for your practice and your patients. 

Cellular RPM Device Advantages:

  • Cellular RPM devices can transmit patient health data from virtually anywhere traditional cellular service can reach
  • Cellular RPM devices can record and transmit patient physiologic data in near real-time, allowing the patient’s healthcare team to receive almost immediate alerts 
  • Cellular RPM devices have a more simple initial setup process, thus they may be easier to use for patients who might not be technologically savvy 

Cellular RPM Device Drawbacks:

  • Cellular RPM devices may have limited service for patients living in rural areas
  • Potential for loss of communication and data transmission if the cellular network is down
  • Without the requirement for a mobile app, patients have less opportunity for engagement and less visibility into the trends arriving from their readings

Bluetooth RPM Device Advantages:

  • Bluetooth devices require no cellular connection
  • When using a Bluetooth device in conjunction with a mobile app, patients have real-time visibility into the trends arriving from their readings
  • Mobile apps are an additional avenue for engaged patients and can be gamified to incentivize more readings

Bluetooth RPM Device Drawbacks:

  • Bluetooth devices require more steps for setup 
  • Pairing issues between RPM devices and cell phones may be challenging for patients, potentially creating more requests for technical support
  • Patients need to have their own access to the internet to transmit their physiologic data to their healthcare provider

Use a Multi-Tiered Approach to Boost Engagement

One of the best ways to establish RPM success is to use the right technology to encourage patient adherence. 

Trends have shown that certain populations, including seniors and those on Medicare, are less likely than the general population to have smartphones. For those patients, having a cellular-enabled RPM device provides a simplified experience with fewer steps and less friction. On the other hand, patients who are more tech-savvy might want to have a more interactive experience, which Bluetooth devices allow. 

The ideal RPM solution allows you the flexibility to choose from a variety of equipment. That’s why it’s important to work with an RPM vendor who can offer both cellular and Bluetooth-enabled devices. As the needs of your patient population grow and shift, you can easily adjust to meet their needs. 

Regardless of which type of device you assign to your patients, it’s critical you pair the right device with an effective multipronged patient engagement strategy that goes beyond it. 

Learn More

For more information on how to build a successful patient engagement strategy that drives RPM success, check out our recorded webinar Driving Engagement and Adherence Through Remote Patient Monitoring.

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