Remote patient monitoring (RPM) can be a safe and effective way for pain clinics, primary care offices, oncologists, and surgeons to monitor the use of prescription pain management drugs such as opioids. A pulse oximetry (“pulse ox”) device can alert monitoring staff to shallow respirations that could indicate opioids are having an adverse impact on a patient’s health.
The Impact of Prescription Drug Misuse
Pain management medications are a necessity for many patients with chronic and debilitating diseases. More than 191 million opioid prescriptions were dispensed to American patients in 2017. Unfortunately, the potential for misuse and addiction is also high. In 2019, an estimated 9.7 million people misused prescription pain relievers.
Using RPM to Monitor Respiratory Function
Opioid medications act on receptors in the central nervous system to block pain. They also cause respiratory depression that can result in the brain not getting enough oxygen, also known as brain hypoxia. This can be dangerous as brain cells need a constant flow of oxygen to function. When abused at higher doses, opioids can result in serious complications, including death.
RPM can also help providers manage the appropriate use of pain medication. If a patient is overmedicating, that may be detectable in pulse ox readings. With RPM, providers can help ensure patients are receiving sufficient oxygenation while maintaining the needed pain relief.
Proactively Monitoring Oncology Patients
For oncology patients on long-term opioid use, remote patient monitoring can provide effective monitoring for the side effects of pain relief as well as chemotherapy. RPM can provide multiple devices, including pulse ox, blood pressure cuffs, and weight scales to holistically monitor cancer patients’ vital signs as they proceed through treatment and/or palliative care.
Cancer patients are frequently on multiple medications that can have numerous health impacts. RPM can ensure early detection of any warning signs resulting from cancer treatment and pain management strategies.
Pulse Oximeter: An Easy-to-Use RPM Device
A pulse ox device is a great fit for RPM because the device is so easy to use. By simply clipping the pulse ox to the patient's finger, the reading takes about 15 seconds and can make adherence and engagement much higher relative to some other devices. In fact, the American Lung Association describes a pulse ox device as an easy, safe, and fast way to measure the percentage of oxygen in the red blood cells.
Equipping Patients with the Right Devices
RPM is only effective if patients are regularly using their devices and using readings. The “right” device will vary by patient, but there are several key variables to consider. The first is the patient’s comfort level with technology. Bluetooth devices offer more features, such as apps and tracking data history, but are much more complicated to set-up and maintain than cellular devices. For patients in rural areas, connectivity is a key factor – do they have better WiFi service (Bluetooth) or cell service? Your RPM vendor should offer both cellular and Bluetooth options so you can choose the right fit for your patients.
Ready to Help Your Patients Safely Manage Pain?
Optimize Health now offers both cellular and Bluetooth pulse ox devices. With more device options, we are confident we can help more patients successfully manage the negative side effects of opioids. If you want to talk to an RPM expert about how your practice could add pulse ox to your existing RPM program or to launch a new RPM program, schedule a free consultation.
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