Remote Patient Monitoring in Home Healthcare
In healthcare, there is increasing pressure to leverage any and all practices that can improve both the patient’s experience and the organization’s bottom line. Remote patient monitoring (RPM) promises to do just that.
Technology now allows providers to collect vital healthcare data, such as blood pressure readings, glucose levels, heart rate, breathing, and more from their patients, without requiring an office visit or house call. This saves time and money, and in many cases, improves patient outcomes.
Trends in Remote Patient Monitoring
Remote patient monitoring helps fulfill the “triple aim” of healthcare: patient experience, population health, and per capita cost.
Consider the following data, courtesy of CRF Health:
- Patient experience: 62% of patients said RPM would be helpful with managing their conditions.
- Population health: Patients in an RPM program had 75% lower hospital readmission rates.
- Per capita costs: Regular RPM use is on course to save $200 billion globally in healthcare costs over the next 25 years.
RPM Uses in Home Healthcare
The uses of remote patient monitoring in home healthcare are many and varied, including:
- Chronic illness management for patients with heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), diabetes, and other conditions.
- Post-hospitalization patients who need routine monitoring after an illness or injury.
- Care for elderly or homebound patients who find it difficult to get to a provider’s office.
- High-risk patients who need to be monitored for new or worsening conditions so early intervention can mitigate further complications.
Regulation Changes for RPM
The U.S. Centers of Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) recently proposed a new rule to allow home healthcare providers to report RPM as an allowable cost on Medicare cost report forms, citing its multiple benefits to patients and providers alike.
“Today’s proposals would give doctors more time to spend with their patients, allow home health agencies to leverage innovation, and drive better results for patients,” CMS Administrator Seema Verma says. “The redesign of the home health payment system encourages value over volume and removes incentives to provide unnecessary care.”
If the rule is accepted, reimbursement will take effect as of January 1, 2019.
Remote Patient Monitoring Offers Benefits
The fact that CMS is jumping aboard the RPM train serves to illustrate just how beneficial remote monitoring can be.
Remote patient monitoring optimizes the time a patient spend in person with a healthcare provider. Because basic health metrics are monitored remotely, there’s no need to spend time obtaining vital signs and making rudimentary assessments. Appointment time can be spent with more meaningful interaction between the patient and healthcare provider.
That’s core to how RPM reduces or eliminates unnecessary visits. Why make the trek across town to a provider’s office or schedule a house call when patients can monitor themselves at home?
For patients living in rural areas where healthcare resources are far-flung or scarce, RPM can help save lives. In a remote part of Alaska, one RPM program has saved 17 e-ICU patients from a trip to Anchorage for treatment—both health and cost benefits to the patients.
But the benefits aren’t solely for the patients. Providers reap benefits from RPM, too, in the form of gathering real-time data, simpler access to patients’ health histories, and quicker intervention in the event of a decline. Altogether, this results in time and money saved by provider organizations as well as patients.
The Challenges of Remote Patient Monitoring
For all the benefits RPM has to offer, there are challenges, too, beginning with how to make RPM and electronic health records (EHRs) work together.
EHRs were developed to handle episodic care—a new entry was added each time a patient had contact with a healthcare worker. However, RPM happens in real-time. Organizations must decide, while remaining compliant, when and where to attach RPM results, and then find a system that can integrate the data on both ends.
The output of RPM data requires review by human eyes, which creates an entirely new challenge:
- Who will be responsible for reviewing the data?
- How will oversight be managed?
- Can your existing workforce adequately handle the sudden influx of heart rate, blood pressure, and glucose level data?
Accuracy is another obstacle. While some devices monitor and transmit automatically, others rely on patient reporting. Are the records accurate? Does the patient know how to properly use the device? While there is a learning curve, it is crucial that the RPM data is correct, as inaccuracies can lead to costly—and even life-threatening—mistakes.
Finally, as with any technology, security is a concern. Data breaches, hacks, and the need to remain HIPAA-compliant have some organizations hesitant to implement RPM.
RPM Is the Future of Home Healthcare
Remote patient monitoring benefits the home healthcare sector and its consumers tremendously, and recent technological advancements make it easier than ever to integrate RPM into your organization.
The mobile world of healthcare is expanding by the minute. Embracing RPM allows your home healthcare organization to grow with it!