At the beginning of 2020, the adoption of remote patient monitoring wasn’t as widespread or widely used as it has been as of late. Before the pandemic, it was struggling to make a breakthrough despite having been available for years. There was a lot of hesitancy in implementing RPM, which appeared to have been caused by the limited reimbursement of opportunities and insufficient incentives for healthcare providers.
However, this changed when Covid-19 hit. The severity of the pandemic brought to light the need for quick adoption of innovative digital health technologies that are on the rise.
Despite telehealth receiving most of the focus in the medical community, remote patient monitoring has started to gain traction since the pandemic started due to the rapidly increased use. Despite all the problems and negativity of the pandemic, the increased adoption of virtual healthcare services and delivery systems has been one positive aspect.
Many people still don’t have a clear understanding of what remote patient monitoring is. Therefore, we thought it would be helpful to put together an article that defines what RPM is, its impact on healthcare, and how beneficial it has been and will continue to be moving forward.
What is Remote Patient Monitoring?
Remote patient monitoring is a variant of telehealth that utilizes monitoring technologies to track patient data beyond the typical healthcare settings. This subset of telehealth also referred to as RPM, uses various technologies to gather patients’ health data from wherever they are, either at home, school, or even workplaces.
The patient data is then transmitted to either clinicians or other healthcare providers. One of the most vital aspects of remote patient monitoring is the hardware, software, and digital connection that collects and transmits health data via the internet. Many of the modern RPM tools are sleek, like the Fitbit and Apple Watch. They can monitor many things, including blood pressure, exercise, heart rate, pulse, among others.
The monitoring technologies used can vary. They can either be patient-implanted devices, often used for patients with chronic conditions, including cardiac devices that sync data to a transmitter in a hospital, or take the form of wearable devices. Using the technology is to provide proactive patient care, reduce the costs involved, and allow patients to go on with their lives while monitoring their healthcare outcomes.
It’s all about moving healthcare from the traditional setting into patients’ homes, work, and even where they play daily. It’s bridging the information gap between what takes place in the typical physical setting of healthcare and what happens in the patient’s day-to-day lives. It enables patients to access quality healthcare no matter where they live and helps physicians catch medical problems early. It leads to lower healthcare costs and a better outcome for patients.
What are the Benefits of Remote Patient Monitoring?
A significant shift in technology has allowed RPM to become more prevalent in recent years. It has brought about a transition from expensive healthcare innovations to improved productivity solutions and outcomes. RPM has created significant benefits that will be consequential for the entire society, especially the underserved, uninsured, and Medicaid populations. The benefits will change people’s lives, both during and beyond the pandemic.
It leverages technology in a way that allows a patient to be comfortable enough to manage an aspect of their healthcare. The comfort it offers plays an essential role in increasing the patient’s engagement levels. It goes hand in hand with improving their quality of care.
Patients are incentivized to engage with their health better with the RPM models, and clinicians also become better equipped in understanding and managing their patients’ health conditions. Through the constant stream of data, it gives a much clearer perspective of the patient’s health.
The top three benefits patients have cited include:
1) Improved speed in access to healthcare services
2) More detailed information on personalized health
3) A more significant influence on the patient’s well-being through ownership of health data.
When it came to healthcare providers, they highlighted:
1) Improved compliance rates
2) Patients being able to take ownership of their health
3) Improved patient outcomes
Benefits of remote patient monitoring for patients
The following are five ways patients can benefit from RPM:
1) Better access to the healthcare team: RPMdevices usually report real-time health data. Healthcare providers can stay in the loop on the current health status of their patients. Both caregivers and patients have more peace of mind.
2) Improved quality of care: Practitioners gain a more holistic understanding of each patient’s health condition by using RPM. This leads to fewer emergency room visits and increased time between in-office visits.
3) Fewer visits to the clinician’s office: This lessens patients’ exposure to illnesses and reduces the expenditure of time and travel.
4) Better support and education: Healthcare teams can get more comprehensive information on a patient’s health status. This enables them to provide improved individual support and education.
5) Enhanced control over personal health: RPM is usually accompanied by a user-friendly application that can be accessed from smart devices. The app allows patients to have instant access to a medical analysis of their well-being.
Benefits of remote patient monitoring on healthcare expenditures
There are financial benefits to patients and practices provided by RPM. The service has grown tremendously due to updates by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) guidelines and rules of reimbursement for RPM. There are coverage rules outlined by the CMS that should be followed by Medicare Advantage plans and many other private insurance companies as well.
Medicare patients can expect to have copays until they meet their deductibles. Beneficiaries can expect to pay $25 per month per monitoring after the deductible is met since RPM is covered at 80 percent. That is a small price to pay compared to the time and financial cost associated with traditional in-office medical appointments.
Benefits of remote patient monitoring on the payers
Insurance companies are launching “virtual-first” health plans; insurance ensures telemedicine is a foundational part of a patient’s care. It acts as a link that leads patients to access virtual healthcare that leads them to in-person care. If they work successfully, the virtual health plans will lead to access to regular improved care, reduced costs, and several additional benefits. Patients can take virtual measurements through RPM to prepare for virtual visits.
What are the Differences Between Remote Patient Monitoring and Telehealth?
These two can confuse most people, as not everyone knows the difference between telehealth and remote patient monitoring. The easiest way to differentiate them is to remember that while remote patient monitoring uses a particular type of technology to facilitate interaction between patients at home and healthcare providers, telehealth is a broader aspect that covers the whole industry, technologies, and methods used to enable remote care.
RPM is merely a type of delivery system under telehealth. In general, telehealth can refer to remote patient monitoring, but it can also refer to several other things. Telehealth technology can be devices like a smartwatch or a heart rate monitor. It encompasses all the different kinds of technology used to gather health data from patients. It’s also the idea of using all those technologies to collect and transmit information. That’s how telehealth can be defined in the broad category, making remote patient monitoring a branch of telehealth.
It might be confusing, and it’s nothing to be ashamed about. These are new terms to many of us. They continue to evolve as the technology, its uses, and its benefits continue to develop over the years. Remote chronic care management is considered a type of telehealth in most cases.
It’s more of a holistic approach where the patient is connected to both the clinician and the extended care team. The family caregiver is also an essential part of the patient’s success. All in all, telehealth and remote patient monitoring are terms that are often used interchangeably, but they aren’t the same.
What Pathologies Benefit The Most From RPM?
Statistically speaking, more than 60 percent of adults in the United States suffer from at least one chronic disease, and about 40 percent have been diagnosed with two or more. There’s a tremendous economic burden on the healthcare system that comes from the treatment of chronic conditions.
The following are some chronic conditions that can benefit most from RPM; they’re ranked from least expensive to most expensive regarding medical cost on a national level.
Prediabetes – $43.4 billion
This is the number provided by the American Diabetes Association (ADA). Patients suffering from prediabetes are ideal candidates for RPM. Remote monitoring provides management of the chronic condition, as well as prevention of diabetes. The patient gets the tangible motivation needed to adhere to their schedule.
The monitoring is primarily done through a scale connected to the digital Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP). The scales provide real-time updates on the patient’s weight management. It tracks progress and provides helpful tips.
COPD – $49 billion
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), approximately 15.7 million Americans have been diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Although no treatment can cure the condition, RPM greatly helps with symptomatic management.
Oxygen saturation is one of the important vital signs that show the decompensation of COPD. It can be measured through pulse oximeter devices. Pulse oximetry provided by RPM solutions changes the paradigm of COPD care. Patients are empowered to understand the state of the disease, and providers engage with them when they need support.
Heart failure – $53 billion
The American Heart Association Journal predicts the cost of heart failure might rise to $53 billion by 2030. Almost 6.2 million adults in the United States suffer from heart failure. Overload in the lungs and low extremities are some of the causes that can make a heart condition worse and possibly lead to heart failure.
RPM empowers patients to manage heart failure at home. One of the modes of treatment used is encouraging patients to weigh themselves daily. An increase in weight can indicate there’s an increase in fluid buildup. Instead of dealing with the burden of doing daily weigh-ins, RPM solutions make it easier by allowing clinicians to proactively reach out to the patients and adjust medications needed to reduce heart failure admissions.
What Technologies Drive RPM?
With the world in the middle of a global pandemic, clinicians currently need to rely heavily on different technologies, like RPM solutions, to ensure successful remote monitoring of patients. Many new devices are emerging daily and finding the most reliable ones can be overwhelming.
Information gathered from RPM devices can be transmitted through cellular networks or Bluetooth technology. The advancement of cellular networks and Bluetooth technology helps drive up the capabilities of what the devices can do and how quickly they can do it.
Cellular remote patient monitoring vs. Bluetooth remote patient monitoring
These types of devices usually collect and transmit patient health data through the same networks used by cell phones. Companies that offer cellular devices usually partner with major cell phone companies to have access to widespread networks.
Alternatively, Bluetooth remote patient monitoring devices usually transmit data over short-range wireless connections to devices that connect to the internet. Both technologies are deemed reliable and secure.
However, cellular devices can report the virtual statistics of patients much faster; it doesn’t matter whether patients have reliable internet access.
To Wrap Up
Despite only becoming prevalent during the pandemic, remote patient monitoring is the future of healthcare. With the rate at which RPM is growing, it’s only a matter of time before its devices are as common as GPS apps or phones.
The solutions have been helpful for patients during the pandemic, and it’s expected to remain the same and even better after the Covid-19 pandemic is over. Many minority communities haven’t been able to get full access to care. They also have a higher likelihood of suffering from chronic conditions, including heart disease, obesity, and diabetes. Now with the pandemic, they’re at a high risk to contract Covid-19 too.
RPM has bridged this gap by providing affordable solutions and reducing the costs patients incur from in-clinic visits. The more conveniently patients can reach clinicians from the comfort of their homes, schools, or offices, the more empowered they feel about monitoring their health. It also better educates people about their medical condition while also helping them develop more trust towards their healthcare providers.