The global remote patient monitoring (RPM) market is expected to reach US$ 7,338.92 million by 2028, up from US$ 2,177.69 million in 2020, according to a recent report released by ResearchAndMarkets.com. Hospitals and medical centers across the U.S. consider RPM implementation a priority, with one in five organizations having already adopted an RPM solution. Another 23% plan to install RPM over the following 12 months. However, despite these impressive projections, barriers to RPM acceptance remain at both provider and patient levels.
Perceived Barriers to RPM Implementation
Provider hesitation is based mainly on four specific, perceived disadvantages. However, if clinicians choose an experienced, reputable RPM vendor to work with, these issues can be addressed by careful analysis of the facts.
#1: Implementation Costs
Most software programs require a sizeable investment, so it’s not surprising that cost is one of the primary perceived disadvantages of a clinical monitoring program. There’s no sticker shock here, however. While implementation costs include the purchase price of devices, which are provided free of charge to patients, the fact is that the one-time insurance reimbursement for patient onboarding, plus the monthly reimbursements for RPM, outstrip the initial costs significantly. And with no long-term contracts or minimum order quantities, a practice can generate a recurring monthly inflow for every patient on the program. This results in revenue instead of expenditure and offers an average net ROI of $1,000 per patient per year.
#2: Provider and Staff Time Constraints
Many providers voice concern about the amount of time they and their staff will spend monitoring patients, and see this as a waste of time that could be used to generate revenue. In addition, the current dire healthcare staff shortages present challenges that are unlikely to improve anytime soon. A report by Elsevier Health shows that unless significant changes occur in the industry, 47% of U.S. healthcare workers plan to leave their current roles in the coming two to three years. This means that assigning human resources to RPM is simply out of the question for the average practice.
A digital RPM program offers a unique solution to this problem. With qualified RNs handling the day-to-day monitoring and the system populating the data directly to the EHR, practice staff can spend more time attending to other tasks. Physicians can provide better care for patients during in-person visits. Although the doctor has ultimate responsibility for the patients, the monitoring service attends to all minor events and only escalates issues that require a physician’s attention.
Remote patient monitoring programs also provide comprehensive data analysis and reporting options that permit practitioners to keep a firm finger on their patient population’s collective pulse.
#3: Privacy and Compliance Concerns
When the COVID-19 pandemic intensified the adoption of RPM tools, anxiety about patient safety and privacy also soared. RPM tools typically gather data such as vital signs, weight, blood glucose, blood oxygen levels, and heart rate. Privacy fears included the risk of unauthorized access to device data, leaked information regarding patient vulnerability, or broadcasting times when the home is unoccupied. For medical providers, these issues increase the liability risk.
High-quality RPM programs offer HIPAA-compliant web portals and FDA-approved medical devices that communicate with secure apps. Patient-generated health data is protected by the elevated levels of encryption demanded by HIPAA, and medical practices can opt to integrate the RPM data with electronic health records (EHRs). The automated integration reduces the risk of human error and minimizes the chances of data breaches and social engineering.
#4: Connection and Operating Difficulties for Patients
Patients’ lack of technological know-how is one of the challenges facing remote patient monitoring. Providers often voice concerns about whether connection and operating difficulties will affect the usage and reliability of health monitoring devices, resulting in compromised data accuracy. Performance issues related to unreliable internet facilities at patients’ homes and dexterity issues when using devices. For example, getting a blood pressure cuff fitted correctly surfaces as a “not uncommon” issue for patients.
However, a survey commissioned by McKesson showed that, in general, patients don’t appear to have significant problems using remote devices. Some physicians feared elderly patients could lose interest after a while and cause the sacrifice of compliance. Still, the survey showed that caregivers are often available to remind and help them utilize the various devices.
Mitigating the Concerns
A clinical monitoring program offers an ideal solution for medical practitioners to keep tabs on high-risk, chronically ill patients and those with potentially escalating conditions. For example, RPM would deliver major benefits for a patient between 40 and 65 years old with high blood pressure, diabetes, or pre-diabetes. Meta-analyses show that using RPM for blood glucose results in better glycemic control.
Randomized clinical trials show RPM reduces mortality and readmissions of heart failure and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease patients. RPM also minimizes readmissions in post-hospitalization patients and provides prewarning for many acute health events. The advantages for providers include increased revenue, better time and resource management, increased patient data accuracy, and improved staff morale.
However, the benefits don’t end with the patient or the provider. According to the CDC, the U.S. spends roughly $3.5 trillion per year treating chronic and mental health conditions, which is almost 90% of the nation’s total annual healthcare expenditures.
Overall, the benefits of remote patient monitoring vastly outnumber any disadvantages associated with the technology. The main question is why this type of program is not more widely used. The surge of telehealth during the COVID-19 pandemic seems to have contributed to changing that scenario, and hospitals, home health agencies, and physician practices are increasingly considering implementing RPM programs.