Medical devices such as modern blood pressure monitors come with either Bluetooth or cellular connectivity. Both models look the same, but cellular devices accept a SIM card that requires a data plan similar to a mobile phone, while Bluetooth devices contain a radio chip. There’s much conjecture in the remote patient monitoring (RPM) world about Bluetooth vs. cellular monitoring devices for patients, with companies typically recommending one or the other as the most reliable option.
At RemetricHealth, we believe that the choice of connectivity depends on a patient’s circumstances and their access to home internet. We strive to ensure our patients feel comfortable choosing the method that best suits their individual needs.
Cellular Medical Devices
Medical monitoring devices that have cellular connectivity work just like mobile phones. They contain a SIM card, which uses a data plan to transmit the data via the Internet. There are multiple benefits to be gained by using cellular medical devices. As of 2022, 6.64 billion people worldwide own smartphones, while the number of tablet users exceeds 1.25 billion. Since most of these people have access to cellular networks, cellular devices are a common choice. However, several scenarios exist where Bluetooth devices could be the better choice for patients.
Bluetooth-Enabled Monitoring Devices
Bluetooth medical devices have a maximum transmission range of approximately 30 feet. This limit makes it impossible to transmit data via Bluetooth from a medical monitoring device in a patient’s home directly to cloud storage or their medical provider.
Instead, Bluetooth devices transmit data to a smartphone app, in the same way that sound transfers from a smartphone to Bluetooth earbuds. The phone then becomes a conduit to the cloud portal, doctor, or monitoring service, transmitting the data either via the patient’s home Wi-Fi router, or using their mobile phone’s data plan, offered by the carrier.
Having multiple methods of data transmission to choose from empowers physicians to provide their patients with the individualized healthcare options necessary to improve their outcomes.
Choosing a Connection Method
A cellular medical device is the ideal remote monitoring tool for any patient without a smartphone. However, for a patient who does have a smartphone, even if they don’t have reliable (or any) cellular service, their data can be sent in two ways-either via home Wi-Fi router or the mobile phone’s cellular signal. Using a Bluetooth medical device in combination with a cellphone can offer additional benefits as well.
Access to Patient Apps
Most RPM programs come with a mobile application, which patients can download and link to their Bluetooth-enabled device. This allows them to monitor their health and actions, track their trends, and understand their disease’s progression.
Patients without a smartphone, or those who opt instead for a cellular device, have nowhere to install such an app. This factor prevents them from being able to view the data from the monitoring device and observe their results. This constraint prevents patients with cellular devices from downloading the app and engaging with their care.
More Connectivity Options
One of the most valuable components of a remote patient monitoring program is the ability for a nurse or other qualified practitioner to monitor patient data in real time, follow trends and patterns, and trigger alerts when the data shows any sign of abnormality. For these purposes, a reliable connection with a medical professional is critical.
However, many areas exist where the cellular connection is inadequate. Rural and remote regions often have limited broadband or lack nearby cell signal towers, and cellular data transmissions are chronically poor. Patients with poor cellular access often have local broadband or WI-FI connectivity (through their home router) to compensate and can connect to the Wi-Fi via their smartphone. In addition, the smartphone can hold on to the biometric data until access to the internet is available.
Personalizing Patient Care
Bluetooth devices are generally less expensive than cellular devices because they don’t include the required data plan. However, some vendors prefer to recommend cellular models because Bluetooth devices require additional engineering and software adaptations.
At RemetricHealth, when we supply a device to a patient, we take the time to determine which option is best for each patient based on their individual circumstances, to ensure they get the optimal RPM option for their needs. Let the Bluetooth vs. cellular monitoring devices debate continue…
Please contact us for more information on choosing the best RPM solutions for your patients.