Healthcare professionals use remote patient monitoring (RPM) to help them keep track of consumers’ health status from the comfort of their homes. This article will look at remote patient monitoring, the many benefits it provides, and the challenges it is facing while providing home health care.
What is Remote Patient Monitoring?
Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM), otherwise known as Remote Physiologic Monitoring, involves using digital tools to monitor patients with chronic conditions across distances. RPM digital devices include blood pressure cuffs, glucose meters, breathalyzers, and weight scales to collect data to provide daily data sharing with practitioners. Rather than flooding providers with such daily data, RPM models transmit data in easily assimilated formats that allow providers to scan as needed and be notified of anomalies. In behavioral care, remote patient monitoring devices can help monitor sleep, diet, exercise, mood, alcohol use, and more.
Benefits of Remote Patient Monitoring
Home health agencies incorporate RPM data to manage their patients’ care and achieve care plan goals. In a recent Kaiser Permanente study conducted from April 2020 through February 2021, Kaiser Permanente used RPM to monitor 13,000 COVID-19 patients from their homes. With RPM, providers were able to keep an eye on the patient’s oxygen level while they are at home and make necessary adjustments as needed without requiring an in-person visit in 90% of them. Hospital admissions were required by only 10%. While this example is based in a medical context, much of the same findings are being reported in behavioral healthcare.
Here are some benefits of RPM:
- Early Detection: RPM allows healthcare providers to monitor patients’ or clients’ vitals 24/7. They have real-time insight into patient or client health status and can immediately detect when something goes wrong. If they notice alarming changes, they can catch them right away and provide instructions on the best next steps to prevent the condition from worsening.
- Encourages Self-Management: RPM encourages patients or clients to be more involved in their health care and more aware of their conditions. It increases accountability and education and promotes a healthier future.
- Eliminates Unnecessary Office and Emergency Room Visits: Home health devices allow medical professionals to monitor vital signs without the need for an in-office visit. The use of RPM frees up hospital beds and lessens patients’ or clients’ risk. It also allows medical staff to focus on those that require care most.
- Cuts Down on Patient or Client Expenses: Providers can use remote patient monitoring to decide when a hospital visit is necessary and use home health care devices to provide treatment. This keeps patients or clients from spending money on unnecessary examinations.
- RPM Cuts Down on the Spread of Germs: Many patients or clients were reluctant to leave their homes to visit practitioners for fear of catching the COVID 19 virus. As a result, there was a 154% increase in telehealth visits during March 2020 compared with the same period in 2019.
For a more extensive review of benefits as applicable to the general population, see 13 Benefits of Telehealth and Remote Patient Monitoring. As technology has evolved, voice technology has been incorporated into RPM to deliver even greater access to services and is an effective intervention for loneliness exacerbated by the isolation caused by lockdowns related to COVID.
For decades, the larger retailers have been eying the Baby-Boomer market because RPM is a win-win-win for patients, practitioners, and manufacturers when adequately utilized. Specialized remote patient monitoring systems by retailers can be friendly to professionals working with the elderly, the homebound and their families. In Alexa Together: New Remote Patient Monitoring for Older Adults?, Telehealth.org described features of the upcoming service, a soon-to-be-released subscription service for caregivers allowing them to provide in-home help and remote patient monitoring for their older loved ones.
RPM Reimbursement for Home Health Agencies
In 2018, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) amended their regulations. They made remote health monitoring an allowable administrative cost if it was used by a home health agency in the care planning process. Home health agencies could review costs associated with RPM to measure outcomes. By 2019, CMS started reimbursing RPM; they paved the way for many companies to develop products for clinicians and consumers to improve their health and well-being.
The CMS regulatory change allowed eligible practitioners to be reimbursed for time spent collecting and interpreting health data generated by a patient remotely, digitally stored, and transmitted. The reimbursement coverage is extended to services delivered by staff in the practitioner’s office in addition to the practitioner’s direct contact with those data. Medicare and many private insurances permit billing for RPM and allow for CPT billing codes 99453, 99454, 99457, 99458, and 99091. For a summary of 2022 reimbursement rates, see Physician Fee Schedule for Behavioral Health & Telebehavioral Health.
Remote patient monitoring plays a vital role in home health and is a convenient solution for providers, patients, and their families. It offers a range of benefits that include more accurate assessment and outcome measurement. It reduces the spread of infectious diseases and allows family members to participate more closely in their loved one’s care. RPM also provides a means for early detection and encourages self-management from home for people, not only in the home health care industry, but also for everyone.
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