Bluetooth and Cellular devices are two types of digital health wearables your medical office can use for transmitting remote data from patients. But is one really better than the other? The short answer is yes.
However, you should consider all the pros and cons of both types of devices before you decide on the best choice. Here is everything you need to know about choosing the right RPM devices for your patients.
Bluetooth RPM Devices
There are several reasons why Bluetooth is the global standard for connected devices of all types and why it is the most popular choice for RPM devices.
- Much less expensive: Bluetooth RPM devices are more cost-effective, typically only half the cost of cellular, especially if you want your patients to use multiple devices.
- More types of devices are available: Bluetooth is the global standard for connected devices, which means it is widely used for both existing and new medical devices. This means using Bluetooth gives you access to more types of devices and gives you faster access to new devices.
- Easy to use: Patients can easily pair devices because they’re probably already familiar with Bluetooth from other consumer products, and there’s no need to install additional software for communication. There is a misconception that Bluetooth is difficult for seniors, but our data across thousands of senior patients shows that this is simply not true. The vast majority of seniors have smartphones and the basic technical literacy to use Bluetooth with ease. Of course, technical support is readily available if needed.
- Connectivity advantages: Patients can submit data via Wi-Fi or store data locally until a cellular connection becomes available. This is critical for a large portion of patients who live in rural areas without cellular signals or in dense buildings, such as senior care or VA facilities, with cellular dead zones.
- Drives patient engagement: Driving patients to the app to use their Bluetooth devices also creates the habit for them to use other app features, such as sharing other non-device health metrics, viewing content you share with them and communicating with your practice via telehealth to complete RPM live interactions.
- Requires smartphone: Patients must have a smartphone to connect their device to their app, but as noted above, smartphone adoption is incredibly high in the US. In cases where patients don’t have a smartphone, they can use one provided by a caretaker or the RPM vendor.
- Learning curve: Despite the ease of use, some patients may need to learn how to set up and initially use the device. Depending on how that goes, your patients may end up feeling discouraged and becoming too resistant to use them at all. In our experience this is a small proportion of patients.
There’s no reason why you and your patients can’t overcome these obstacles quickly, especially when patients are taught how to use the devices properly and they can call upon software support when needed.
Cellular RPM Devices
When it comes to RPM, another less common option is cellular devices. While some offices and patients find cellular RPM devices convenient, there are typically limited use cases for them.
- No smartphone: cellular devices connect directly to cellular networks, so they do not require smartphones to submit data to providers, as long as cellular networks are in range. This removes a step for patients because they do not have to connect the devices to their phones.
- Familiar and comfortable: Patients may feel more at ease just using the devices on their own, without connected apps. It makes the devices simpler to use, but also limits their functionality because there are no connected apps with additional features.
- Much more expensive: The higher cost of cellular devices, especially when multiple devices are necessary, negatively impacts your office’s bottom line. Cellular devices cost $100+, while Bluetooth devices cost around $60. Some RPM vendors will try to mask this by saying the cellular device is free, but that just means they package the cost into some other fee, or they will come back and charge it if you don’t return the device in good condition. Either way, you pay more when you use cellular devices!
- Fewer RPM features and less engagement: Cellular devices aren’t paired with apps necessary to provide comprehensive RPM patient engagement, such as telehealth interactions, viewing content, and tracking non-device metrics, such as mood, prescription adherence, and meals. This leads to less engaged patients and less successful RPM programs.
- Transmission issues: Despite the availability of cellular networks, data interruptions may regularly occur if your patients live in rural areas with limited service or live in apartment buildings or assisted living facilities with dead zones.
- Limited selection of devices: cellular is typically added as a secondary form of connectivity, after Bluetooth, if it is even added at all. This means if you use cellular you have access to fewer types of devices to support your patients’ conditions.
- Cellular device recycling is not practical: some RPM vendors have tried to mitigate the high cost of cellular devices by asking providers and patients to return and recycle them after use. However, this does not work in practice.Devices break patients forget to return them, and the practices end up footing the bill.
- Near perfect patient compliance is necessary: This is critical. As a provider, you need to collect data or programmed alerts from your patients for a minimum of 16 out of every 30 days. Patients don’t typically send 16 days of data, so you need to rely on alerts to fulfill the remaining required days. Cellular devices do not support alerts to fulfill those requirements like the Bluetooth + app approach does, so you are not able to complete the service and bill nearly as many patients as Bluetooth.
Simply providing patients with wearable health monitoring devices is not enough to prompt them to submit information daily and fully engage with your office and their care plan. As the healthcare industry and your office modernizes, you need a comprehensive set of modern tools, including patient health monitoring devices and a feature-rich mobile app. Cellular devices simply do not provide that comprehensive toolset.
Implementing Bluetooth RPM Devices with Seniors
Bluetooth RPM devices are on par with modern healthcare, which many of your patients will expect. But perhaps you are a provider to older, senior patients who may not keep up with technology as much as younger patients.
As a medical provider, you don’t have to worry about your older patients knowing how to use Bluetooth RPM devices successfully. They are very easy to implement and CoachCare’s client base proves that. CoachCare provides RPM support and Bluetooth devices to thousands of healthcare providers who work with older patients.
Unlike cellular devices, perfect device compliance isn’t required with Bluetooth RPM devices. CoachCare’s daily patient alerts ensure your office will collect the amount of data and engagement necessary to fulfill the RPM reimbursement requirements. Your office gets paid even if patients sometimes forget to submit data themselves.
Making the Choice
Bluetooth presents a huge advantage for RPM devices and digital health management. It’s cost-effective and easy to use. In addition, there is an array of device types to choose from, each offering essential features for monitoring your patients’ health remotely and fulfilling billing requirements.