A Guide To Remote Patient Monitoring
Everything you need to know about RPM and its use in patient care
Like telehealth, remote patient monitoring is on the rise. This shouldn’t come as a surprise since remote patient monitoring falls under the larger umbrella of telehealth as a proven method of data capture and delivery. And as you know, the virtual care boom has only just begun. With the latest trends towards the value-based care treatment model, remote patient monitoring is sure to only continue gaining momentum.
According to a study done by Spyglass Consulting Group in 2019, 88% of providers surveyed had already invested in or were evaluating investments in remote patient monitoring technologies to support high-risk, chronically ill patients whose conditions are considered unstable and at-risk for hospital readmissions.
Fast forward one year, and the market for remote patient monitoring was valued at a staggering $956 million in 2020. That upward trajectory is estimated to impact market share with a whopping 19.7% increase by 2028. To say it’s an exciting time for technology advancements in healthcare would be an understatement. So without further ado, let’s spotlight the impact remote patient monitoring is making.
What is Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM)?
Remote patient monitoring (RPM) is a healthcare delivery method that uses information technology to gather patient data from anywhere in the world, allowing a patient's care team to monitor their condition outside of the traditional hospital setting. The goal of RPM is to give providers a frequent snapshot of their patient’s vitals and condition so they can build a complete view of their health history and intervene rapidly with the proper care should it be needed.
The technology used to capture these patient data points is called remote patient monitoring devices. They come in a variety of forms; some of which may surprise you. Chances are high that you may already own a common RPM device like a Fitbit or Apple Watch. If you think about it, everything that can capture heart rate, blood pressure or a pulse can be used as a remote patient monitoring device to transfer health data about you.
Remote Patient Monitoring devices
There are many different types of remote patient monitoring devices out there. These devices allow the patient's care team to observe, report and analyze their condition at all times and from any location in the world. Pretty amazing, right?
It’s safe to say that treating patients with chronic conditions just got much easier. RPM devices can monitor patients with diabetes, high blood pressure and respiratory issues (to name a few) effectively and in real-time. They take the scramble, stress and uncertainty out of healthcare maintenance for patients suffering with conditions that affect their daily lives.
Let’s explore some of the different devices and the ways providers use them to deliver quality care.
Blood pressure monitor: This device is pretty much exactly what you see at the doctor but an at-home version. The inflatable cuffs fill with air and squeeze the patient's arm to calculate heart rate and blood flow. These devices help providers monitor patients with high blood pressure to assist in early diagnosis or prevention of conditions like diabetes and kidney dysfunction.
Weight scales: Scales are very important for patients managing chronic conditions like Congestive Heart Failure or other weight-related concerns. Slight variances in weight can have a huge effect on a patient’s health. To monitor weight and ensure the patient is staying on track with their health plan, these scales automatically transmit the weigh-in data to the provider for review.
Blood glucose meter: Effectively managing diabetes requires constant monitoring of blood sugar levels. By taking a single drop of blood and inserting it into the handheld glucose meter, patients and providers can track their blood sugar throughout the day. Not only can this indicate their current blood sugar levels but it can also monitor how certain variables may impact them, including new medications, diet, exercise and even stressors.
Spirometers: A spirometer is a device that measures the volume of air inhaled and exhaled by the lungs. Basically, it measures lung function efficiency. This device can alert providers to any respiratory issues the patient may have, contributing to early diagnosis and treatment plans.
Medical alert systems: Do you remember those medical alert commercials that went a little something like, “Help! I’ve fallen and I can’t get up”? Those wearables are incredibly valuable for seniors who live independently and will actually alert clinicians and emergency personnel should the patient experience a fall or injury.
Heart rate monitor: This wearable device helps clinicians monitor and detect arrhythmias in a patient's heart. It continuously records data throughout the day so they can identify if a certain event the patient participated in, such as exercise, triggered the irregular heartbeat.
Those are a few of the most common devices being adopted, but that doesn’t even begin to cover all of the options that are out there currently (and coming in the near future). This is definitely an area to keep an eye on for major technology innovations in the years to come.
Benefits of Remote Patient Monitoring
Remote patient monitoring has many benefits, as you can imagine given its rapid growth in the healthcare industry. This is also an area that’s been equally valuable for the patients, the providers and the healthcare facilities. Here are some of the ways it positively impacts each of the groups.
Improved patient outcomes: Having a chronic condition changes your entire life and drastically increases your average time spent in a hospital. Remote patient monitoring is helping patients avoid many of those unnecessary visits by allowing physicians to monitor the patient’s condition without having to come into the office. This reduces hospitalizations, the number of in-person visits required and prevents complications that could arise should the patient’s condition get out of control.
Patients are taking ownership: Through remote patient monitoring devices, patients are taking more ownership of their overall health too. Why? Remember when you were in school and you knew the teacher was watching you? You were obviously going to do the work diligently. This is no different. Patients know their RPM device is reporting all their numbers to their provider and if their condition is worsening, they will get a call. The majority, if not all devices, allow the patients to see the numbers as well. This system gets patients engaged with their health, helps to set goals and build awareness and ultimately leads to more accountability.
Better access to healthcare: Access to healthcare is still an issue for many rural communities across the country; especially with patients who suffer from chronic conditions who need to see a specialist. Having to travel hours away just for a check-up means taking time off work, time away from their family and more money spent on travel. Remote patient monitoring allows patients to keep their providers updated on their medical condition without having to commute such long distances as frequently.
Access to more patient data: RPM allows providers to constantly receive and monitor patient data. The care team has a regular inflow of data which allows them to identify patterns in the patient's condition and problems before they get worse. This helps make an informed medical decision much quicker and craft treatment plans that are driven by the most accurate data.
Decreases the shortage of primary care providers: There’s been a serious shortage of primary care professionals (PCPs) in the United States for some time and it’s especially hitting rural areas. Remote patient monitoring may be part of a solution to spreading care virtually. With remote patient monitoring devices and systems, nurses are equipped to assist primary care providers and take on more of the virtual care duties.
Reduces the risk of spreading diseases and infections: With fewer patients having to come into clinics and hospitals to receive treatment or check-ups, the risk of spreading viruses and other illnesses decreases. This makes the medical workplace much safer for healthcare providers, which is important in times like the COVID-19 pandemic.
Healthcare industry benefits
Supporting Value-Based Care: Remote patient monitoring is supporting the move towards a value-based care model by focusing on the patient and the quality of care they are receiving. The focus on maintaining patient health over time and preventive care for patients with chronic conditions aligns with the value-based care model and is contributing towards that shift.
Shift to prevention focused healthcare: If we can start to control and lower the costs associated with treating chronic health conditions, our healthcare system can start focusing its attention on prevention. Leaders in the industry know one of the most effective ways to lower healthcare costs and improve quality of care is through preventative care. RPM is allowing more patients to be cared for and a reduction in hospital visits which opens up a lot of time and capacity for focus on other areas.
Lowers healthcare costs: Reducing hospitalization and hospital visits results in lower healthcare spending, a win-win for patients and payers. It’s estimated that nationwide adoption of remote patient monitoring could save the United States as much as $6 billion annually.
Reimbursement for RPM
Now, let’s talk dollars. Over the past few years, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services have worked to expand reimbursement for remote patient monitoring. A number of other commercial payers also include remote patient monitoring under their coverage policies for telehealth.
As restrictions on telehealth services being offered are loosening and new rules for reimbursement are being added, the telehealth industry continues to grow and flourish. We’re also seeing an increase in the number of insurance payers including remote patient monitoring services under their coverage.
Why Remote Patient Monitoring?
It’s time to put some things into perspective. According to the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (NCCDPHP), the United States spends $3.8 trillion in annual health care costs for people with chronic and mental health conditions. That is 90% of the nation's total healthcare expenditures annually and A LOT of money.
Let’s dive into some facts provided by the NCCDPHP about common chronic health conditions that can be managed using remote patient monitoring:
Diabetes: More than 34.2 million Americans have diabetes and another 88 million adults in the US have a condition called pre diabetes, which puts them at risk for developing type 2 diabetes. Diabetes can lead to a series of serious complications including heart disease, kidney failure and blindness. In 2017, the total estimated cost of diagnosed diabetes was $327 billion in medical costs and lost productivity.
Heart Disease & Stroke: Heart disease and strokes are the number one cause of death for Americans. More than 868,000 Americans die of heart disease or a stroke every year -- that’s one-third of all deaths. Annually, heart diseases and strokes cost our healthcare system $214 billion with $138 billion in lost productivity on the job.
Obesity: Obesity affects 19% of children and 42% of adults, putting people at risk for chronic disease such as diabetes, heart disease and some cancers. Obesity costs the United States healthcare system $147 billion a year.
As mentioned in the benefits we covered earlier, remote patient monitoring is helping patients manage their chronic conditions easily and allows doctors to proactively track their condition. Providers and patients are quickly realizing that RPM is changing the game for patients living with chronic conditions and leading to more quality lives.
Powering Remote Patient Monitoring
All this talk about remote patient monitoring has us thinking about the ways OpenLoop can help scale your telehealth practice and remote patient monitoring initiatives. At OpenLoop, we pride ourselves in connecting leading clinicians to innovative digital health companies throughout the US.
In other words, we are a telehealth company that powers other telehealth companies. Once you partner with us, you gain an all access pass to multi-state credentialing, rapid shift placement, scalable staffing and our network of fully-vetted clinicians and insurance partners. And we don’t stop there, you can offload as much or as little of your back office challenges to us too.
What does that entail exactly? We can take care of your:
MSO & PC Groups
Managed Services Agreements
Scheduling & Payroll
Telehealth Consulting & Support
Interested in learning more? Get in touch with us today to meet.
And that wraps it up. The need for remote patient monitoring services shot up at the beginning of 2020 when the pandemic first made its appearance. Now, healthcare leaders are seeing a future for these services long after COVID-19 says its goodbyes.
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