Today's article will highlight the economics of remote care while providing a reminder of the technology's basic functioning and applications.
RPM is one of the delivery methods of a broader area of telehealth, which enables medical staff to monitor patient health outside of established clinical settings with the help of connected devices that collect physiological data. Sometimes confused with other types of telehealth, core RPM services do not require virtual doctor visits or any audio or video interactions.
The RPM approach works well for tracking and proactively managing chronic conditions and remarkably improves elderly care. Emergency departments use it for virtual triage of patients aided by paramedics on scene, and it is also a valuable tool for post-acute rehabilitation at home. RPM can be no less effective than conventional patient monitoring at the care site while saving resources and increasing access to healthcare.
Even though the health monitoring practice beyond hospital settings has been around for decades, it became an urgent necessity for the first time during the COVID-19 pandemic and its lockdowns. The public orders to stay at home and travel restrictions ignited healthcare providers' rapid adoption and extensive use of RPM.
In 2023, after several devastating years for health systems everywhere, COVID-19 is finally less of a concern. Yet, patient remote monitoring is here to stay and will likely become the new normal in healthcare. Insider Intelligence estimates that the number of users of RPM tools in the US is growing by 14-18% each year and will reach 70 million people by 2025. At the same time, 76% of medical practices will have RPM programs running by January 2024, according to a recent survey commissioned by Rhythm.
While multiple architectural variations exist depending on the application case, an RPM system usually includes peripheral devices for capturing a user's health-related data through sensors. The wifi-enabled devices can then send the collected parameters from local data storage via a centralized repository in the cloud to a specialist for review.
As patients directly interact with RPM devices and need to use them consistently for the maximum effect, manufacturers strive to ensure they are user-friendly, miniaturized, and integrated into everyday life. Some of the most widely utilized medical RPM devices include breathing and cardiac monitors, blood pressure cuffs, glucometers, pulse oximeters, digital scales, and traditional thermometers.
In addition, diagnostic application software in the form of a mobile app (absent in the case of cellular RPM devices) can analyze the data and deliver real-time intervention alerts and treatment advice. Records are instantly accessible to patients, caregivers, and healthcare providers for making fast and accurate decisions.
The value of adopting RPM has been a widely discussed topic in recent years. Let's look at the key benefits of remote patient monitoring, focusing on how it can generate new revenue for a healthcare organization. Notably, revenue is only part of the equation if you want to calculate the return on your investment in an RPM system: the return consists of all the gains you can expect, including revenue produced, savings made, and other indirect, non-monetary advantages.
In the US, federal and private health insurers reimburse remote patient monitoring services delivered to patients at home. Competent specialists must record and report them using a particular coding system, CPT. There are several requirements for obtaining the compensation — for example, all devices need to be of medical grade and cleared by the Food and Drug Administration–but the financial benefits are substantial.
The reimbursement covers different remote service delivery parts and can be a significant revenue source for any healthcare institution. The relevant refunded procedures include setting up devices and medical software, passive collection and active interpretation of data, and virtual interactions.
Reimbursement rates may vary by locality, and private payers may set their rates differently from those officially approved by Medicare's administrator. However, the combined compensation for the codes mentioned can amount to more than 200 USD per monthly patient. Accordingly, some vendors claim that regular small practices gain up to 300,000 USD, whereas large health systems earn over 1 million USD annually through RPM.
RPM allows patients to remain home longer and avoid unnecessary hospital and emergency room visits. For instance, one study of a remote dialysis program in Australia, quoted by Ernst & Young, found that hospital admissions dropped by 36 per 100 people over 12 months.
Home-based care leads to a lower burden on the healthcare system in the long term and reduces the total cost of care. The released capacity in staff and beds allows for taking on other patients with severe conditions requiring hospitalization, which benefits their health and further adds to the provider's revenue.
Increasingly efficient use of employee time also drives greater organizational productivity and profitability. More junior staff, such as medical assistants and, in some cases, front-office employees or outside contractors, can manage RPM-related tasks, which frees up the senior team's schedules. Also, thanks to the automated alert functionality often embedded in the RPM system, care providers can triage patients quickly and use their time for interventions where they are most needed.
RPM transcends geographical boundaries, allowing residents of an entire city, region, state, or country to use the services of a particular healthcare provider. Patients in isolated and distant rural areas and those homebound and with mobility problems particularly benefit from the technology. Besides, a broader client base usually means more paid service interactions, directly impacting a medical organization's revenue.
Technological advancement has empowered everyone to take control of personal health by self-monitoring their conditions, thus relying less on medical professionals and maintaining independence. At the same time, with shared access to data, patients become more invested in the care delivery process and, subsequently, more willing to adhere to their treatment plans.
Receiving digital healthcare services in the convenience of their home while avoiding commuting to a doctor's office also increases patients' satisfaction. When monitoring their vitals, they do not need to keep a written record as the system saves all data electronically and transmits it in real time. As a result of their seamless experiences with RPM, more involved and delighted patients become repeat customers, continuing to boost their care provider's revenue.
Finally and crucially, monitoring patients between in-person visits to a physician's office can enhance their overall health and even save lives. By analyzing trends, specialists can detect any deterioration in physiological parameters early and prevent complications before a chronic health condition turns into an emergency. Besides, patients' quality of life may improve as RPM devices remind them to stay active, exercise, or lose weight.
Around 60% of American adults have a chronic disease, including 40% who have several conditions simultaneously, states the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data. These chronic conditions are widespread and personal to each patient, making it very challenging for healthcare providers to develop an optimal treatment plan for everyone.
RPM helps solve the puzzle by tracking and analyzing patient vitals for personalized care at scale. While every part of the medical field can leverage the potential of the technology, let's explore several areas where it is already making a significant impact.
In the last 20 years, the prevalence of obesity in the US jumped from roughly 30% to 42%, as noted by CDC. The concerning fact is that this condition increases the risk of more severe diseases, including those discussed below. One of the top RPM applications is after a weight-loss surgery when a patient needs to follow lifestyle and food guidelines to achieve lasting results, and monitoring their progress allows a doctor to support their recovery.
At the very top of death causes worldwide, heart disease includes several condition types, the most common of which is coronary artery disease, potentially causing heart attacks. In the US, CDC reports that every 40 seconds, someone has a heart attack. To help prevent cardiac events, vulnerable individuals can use blood pressure monitors that transmit their readings to the care provider.
During this type of disease, the second most common 'killer,' abnormal cells grow and spread in the body uncontrolled. The American Cancer Society forecasts more than 1.9 million cancer cases will emerge in the US this year. For newly diagnosed patients, it is a source of anxiety and depression due to little control over health outcomes, and RPM helps ease it partly by putting them back in charge. With the support of RPM, those living with cancer can also stay home for some procedures that might have required medical office visits otherwise.
Increased blood sugar levels lead to a metabolic disease known as diabetes, which can have many health complications too. According to WHO, its global prevalence has grown steadily, accounting for 1.5 million deaths yearly. Daily in-home management of diabetes with RPM involves tracking multiple parameters, including blood glucose and pressure. As the system delivers these readings continuously, patients and care providers get alerts when it's time to intervene.
It is a type of sleep disorder affecting the quality of life for millions worldwide, often making them fatigued and prone to depression. A standard wearable device for treating this condition–a CPAP machine–can work with RPM systems and mobile apps that record a patient's sleep and breath data for maximum results.
If you represent a medical practice or other healthcare organization looking to acquire or substantially expand your remote monitoring capabilities, selecting the right technology provider should be at the top of your considerations. Your chances of a successful initiative will be much higher if the vendor or developer you choose can prove years of experience setting up similar systems, demonstrate expertise in managing workflows, and provide relevant testimonials.
Your provider should also be able to train your medical staff and competently answer any strategic and technical questions that arise in the process. An RPM introduction can transform your entire organization, so finding a reliable implementer is only part of the deal. It would be best to have an established partner in healthcare software consulting that can guide you on the right approach and architecture to match your business needs with the right technology.
Regarding the choice of hardware for placing in the patient's home, the general advice is to avoid off-the-shelf devices produced for wellness tracking (think FitBit) but not as reliable for particular RPM cases. As for device connectivity, there are three options with different pros and cons: Bluetooth, cellular, and using a base station. We recommend the former setup, where a Bluetooth-equipped device connects to a smartphone app, resulting in more engaged patients and sharing of additional valuable data.
To better evaluate your vendors and ensure you select the right solution for your organization, consider whether a general, off-the-shelf RPM platform or one developed for your specialty would be the best fit. Either way, you and the vendor must create a launch plan containing an implementation schedule, responsible persons, standard procedures, and communication scripts for a seamless program rollout to the patients. Remember that it is a collaborative project requiring clear responsibilities and commitment on both parties' sides.
In addition to the typical implementation steps, a few best practices can help your RPM initiative deliver the most impact quickly. First, enrolling many eligible patients from the beginning will create a meaningful share of active participants in the health monitoring program, leading to more effective triaging while immediately increasing your revenue.
RPM only improves healthcare if you know how to utilize the system's generated data. Thus, another best practice is to employ remote patient monitoring software for a thoughtful configuration of escalation procedures that alert you about the patients needing help in real time. You can also incorporate artificial intelligence for assistance with flagging changes in device readings.
Finally, the consequent early intervention based on the individual's condition is crucial. An accurate data review will allow a physician to make an informed decision–for example, to adjust medication–and explain its rationale to the patient in a virtual call or in-person visit.
Many new technologies have entered the healthcare field in recent years. Some improve clinicians' workflows and make their work easier; others help organize customer data. The most significant and valuable shift is arguably occurring in the care delivery methods from site-centric to virtual. Telehealth and RPM are central to this dominant trend that extends healthcare services to everyone regardless of location and income.
While virtual doctor consultations can be hugely beneficial in many ways, remote monitoring is the technology that makes a real difference, as it moves the focus from reactive treatment to proactive and preventative care. If you are a medical service provider, it helps you improve your patients' health and enables them to care for themselves. Besides, as shown in this article, it can be a great additional revenue source for your practice or clinic.
CleverDev Software is a custom healthcare technology company with extensive hands-on experience in remote patient monitoring solutions. Consider one of our most significant development projects, where an RPM platform developed from scratch brought a new annual revenue stream of over $1 million to a US-based healthcare company and helped make it a recognizable contributor to the local community. Our senior specialists have collaborated closely with the client to maintain, update, and upgrade the portal.
If you, too, are ready to boost your organization's revenue and improve healthcare with RPM, talk with the team that has done it before. Get in touch with us to see what we can achieve together.
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