The Device Debate: Cellular or Bluetooth

GatewayMD is a telehealth company that leverages smart devices to remotely monitor patients with chronic conditions. These smart devices transmit a patient’s readings, let’s say blood pressure, to a remote care team from the comforts of their own home. Although the concept is straight forward, there are two main ways to accomplish the transmission of biometric readings. Cellular based devices and Bluetooth technology are used in today’s remote patient monitoring programs.


So, the question is, which is the best? To answer this question, we need to understand how a cellular and Bluetooth device works and compare the pros and cons against each other. Cellular based devices have a cellular chip/sim card built within the device itself that emit a signal which is received by a nearby cellular tower. Think of your cell phone.


Bluetooth does not have this technology and therefore cannot connect to cellular towers. How Bluetooth connects, or pairs, is through a direct synch that happens between two devices. Think of connecting your portable speaker to your phone to listen to music.

 

Cellular Devices


Pros

  • Does not require the patient to “pair” with another device. The patient essentially opens the box and can take readings instantly.

  • Reduces the workload or any technical complications for patients that have just enrolled into the telehealth program.

  • The absence of pairing the device to a smartphone does not disrupt the patient’s routine if they have been previously taking their readings prior to enrolling into the monitoring program.

Cons

  • Connectivity and transmission issues can occur. Like cell phones, there are some geographical areas that have low cell signal and disrupt the success of data transmission.

  • Cellular based devices are typically more expensive than Bluetooth devices because of the technology required to enable cellular signaling.

  • There are less options in the marketplace that are cellular based.


Bluetooth


Pros

  • Bluetooth devices have an advantage in regions with poor cellular strength because they can transmit data via Wi-Fi connectivity. This is more apparent in rural regions where a patient’s home is equipped with internet.

  • The marketplace has recently been flooded with disruptive health devices, such as wearables, and most of them are Bluetooth. This gives patients more device options to use for their telehealth programs.

  • Bluetooth devices are generally less expensive, lowering the upfront cost to the patient and provider.

Cons

  • Since the device needs to be paired with another, this requires the patient to own and use a smartphone.

  • Given that there is a pairing process involved, it typically requires more patient education and a slower learning curve to use the device. Depending on how this step goes it may discourage the patient from continuing the program or to take their readings.

 

GatewayMD offers both cellular based and Bluetooth technology. Despite the cost difference and risk of connectivity issues, most providers and patients that leverage GatewayMD’s services opt for cellular based devices. Jay Jay Montenegro, CEO of Zigma Visiting Physician and Meridian Healthcare states that “cellular based devices are a great offering to our patient population. These devices are extremely easy to use and introduce into our patient’s daily routines.”


Overall, both Bluetooth and cellular based devices are great options for remote monitoring programs. Things to consider when determine which to use are predicted on cost, geographical location of the patient, ease of use, and tech literacy.

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