Temporary FDA policy helps doctors monitor COVID-19 patients at home

As hospitals prepare for what is expected to be a very high number of COVID-19 patients in coming weeks, the FDA has revealed a new policy that allows certain non-invasive medical equipment to be used for remotely monitoring patients. The idea is that someone who has a health issue that requires monitoring, but who can safely remain home, is better off being monitored from a distance rather than being exposed to overcrowded health facilities.

Technology has played an important role in keeping society connected and running amid the need for social distancing. Though many people have been told to stay in their homes as much as possible to help curb the spread of the disease, many still continue to work and study using live video chats, networking software, and more.

Hospitals and doctors' offices have similar options when it comes to certain patients. Remote medical monitoring isn't a new idea, but it seems that it may be expanded in coming weeks as hospitals deal with coronavirus patients. In an announcement on Friday, the FDA said its new policy is allowing manufacturers of certain products to expand the use of those devices for the home monitoring of patients.

These devices must be cleared by the FDA, non-invasive, and intended for monitoring vital signs like respiratory rate, body temperature, heart rate, and blood pressure. This new policy will only be in effect for the duration of the state of emergency caused by the coronavirus, and 'applies to certain modifications to the indications, claims, functionality, or hardware or software.'

In a statement, FDA Principal Deputy Commissioner Amy Abernethy said:

Allowing these devices to be used remotely can help health care providers access information about a patient's vital signs while the patient is at home, reducing the need for hospital visits and minimizing the risk of exposure to coronavirus ... Such devices include technologies capable of enabling remote interactions to provide crucial information to be used as an adjunctive when health care providers diagnose or treat COVID-19 or co-existing conditions.