Telehealth may be the healthcare delivery system of the future, but it is already here. It includes the remote delivery of healthcare services to patients, and remote patient monitoring (RPM) is just one part of telehealth that is blossoming. It had an estimated market of $763.4 million, with projected growth to $1.7894 billion by 2025 .
The growing importance of RPM makes sense, given its potential to improve patient health, increase physician revenue streams, and reduce the strain on the healthcare system. Many of the new medical and health-related devices available are able to collect patient-generated data for RPM, making it an important opportunity for patients and doctors alike. These are some trends in RPM.
How Remote Patient Monitoring Works
In RPM, patient data are collected and sent to a doctor or other qualified health professional for analysis. The patient can receive feedback, such as via email or an online portal. Further remote communication between the patient and health professional can occur. Every component of RPM, from data collection to feedback, occurs with patients being remote rather than on-site in a doctor’s office or other healthcare facility.
A variety of situations can use RPM. Patients who are discharged from hospitals, for example, can benefit from RPM so their healthcare providers can see more quickly if they are showing signs of trouble, and to take steps to reverse the pattern to avoid outcomes such as readmission. For example, a thermometer can take the temperature of a discharged patient and indicate if an infection is occurring.
In chronic disease management, RPM can play a major role by allowing providers to notice concerning trends and to intervene if necessary. The following examples illustrate some uses for RPM among patients with diabetes.
- A doctor may notice a patient’s blood sugar increasing over time or being out of target ranges and discuss medication adherence and dietary strategies with the patient.
- If patients reduce their use of blood glucose monitors or stop measuring altogether, doctors might know to check in with them to find out how their self-management behaviors are going.
- A diet logging app may allow doctors to notice that patients are not following their recommended meal plans for managing blood sugar, which can allow follow-up counseling on the importance of eating a nutritious diet for diabetes.
Similarly, RPM can be applied among patients with hypertension or other conditions in which patient-generated data can offer insights into health status.
New Devices Available
There are many new devices available for RPM. For RPM to occur, the device needs to be wireless and able to transmit data to a database. Such devices include a variety of home health monitoring devices to enable 24/7 data collection for richer patient data.
Many common home health monitoring devices are being enabled for RPM. These are some examples.
- Heart rate monitors for cardiac patients.
- Blood glucose monitors for patients with diabetes.
- Blood pressure monitors for individuals with hypertension.
- Wearable physical activity monitors for patients with or without chronic conditions.
- Continuous surveillance monitors to detect falls or locate Alzheimer’s patients.
- Physical activity monitors.
- Body weight scales.
- Diet logging apps.
Better Patient Health
A major driver of the growing importance of RPM is the potential for improved patient outcomes for many reasons, including increased access to care, better patient satisfaction.
Access to care can be Increased with RPM for several reasons. Transportation is not a barrier in RPM. In addition, as patients receive feedback remotely, they do not need to set aside lengthy chunks of time, often using sick days or vacation days, to drive to the doctor, wait, and have the appointment before driving back to work.
These are some other potential ways that RPM can improve patient health.
- Addressing concerns earlier, such as noticing a patient’s blood pressure increasing and discussing the importance of medication adherence and physical activity before a regular, such as annual, appointment or before the patient presents with a stroke or other complication of uncontrolled high blood pressure.
- Improved patient engagement via increased satisfaction with care due to physician feedback and reduced time spent accessing care.
- Increased accountability due to the knowledge that 24/7 data are available to the healthcare provider.
- Richer patient data that allow for more personalized assessment of the patient’s health and behaviors.
For healthcare solutions to work, physicians have to buy into them, which means the economic balance needs to be favorable. This is the case for RPM, as the healthcare system continues to shift towards a value-based care approach, since patient outcomes can improve.
In addition, RPM can lead to increased efficiency because it enables doctors to receive data quickly without needing to chase down patients and schedule appointments to gather data. The richer patient data integrate with your electronic chart so you can easily keep track of each patient without interrupting workflow. And, richer patient data allow for more personalized care.
Increased efficiency is not the only reason for a favorable financial analysis of RPM. There is also an increased revenue stream. The increased reimbursement for RPM reflects the growing importance of RPM. Under Medicare, RPM is reimbursable under four CPT codes, allowing for up to $160 per patient per month of ongoing revenue. These codes are used for billing for RPM .
- 99453: Initial equipment set up and education for patients on parameters such as weight, blood pressure, blood glucose, temperature, or physical activity.
- 99454: Monitoring these parameters remotely.
- 99457: Remote and interactive patient communication about these parameters (20 minutes).
- 99458: Communicating with patients remotely about these parameters (additional 20 minutes).
Reduced Strain on the Healthcare System
What happens when patients are healthier, readmission rates are lower, and providers are able to give more care remotely? Fewer patients go to emergency rooms and get hospitalized. With fewer patients present in healthcare facilities because of better management of chronic conditions, more resources are available for other uses.
This benefit addresses an issue that was put under the spotlight during the COVID-19 outbreak, as hospitals threatened to become overcrowded and some patients were turned away due to lack of space.
With such potential to improve patient health and benefit physicians and the healthcare system, RPM is gaining attention. It makes sense to adapt RPM as part of your practice if you typically analyze patient data to assist with their care.