The 21st century has brought massive changes to our world, with technology at the forefront of the shift. With digital advancements driving everything from buying clothes to cars online or spending a virtual cocktail hour with friends and family on the other side of the planet, it makes sense for doctors to examine patient trends through remote health monitoring instead of simply seeing one reading every 6 months. Remote patient monitoring (RPM) allows physicians to manage both acute and chronic conditions from a distance, cut down on patients’ travel costs and reduce infection risk. However, despite widespread acceptance of RPM by 57% of all medical practices and 46% of PCPs, barriers to adoption remain a deterrent for many practices.
Here are the most common (perceived) hurdles preventing RPM implementation, and some ways to overcome them.
Staff Shortages and Physician Burnout
With the current shortage of medical staff at all levels of healthcare, physicians and their teams already face major burnout, along with difficulty providing the quality of care they previously took pride in. PCPs frequently believe implementing RPM will cause greater work pressures than they already bear. Rolling out a new way of working, learning new systems, and delivering care faster than they did before sounds like an impossible task.
Conversely, RPM empowers practices to address this issue head-on. By minimizing the number of unscheduled in-person appointments needed, transferring some of the workload to dedicated RPM nurses who monitor the system, and providing patients with better healthcare outcomes, they’re able to relieve the pressure on their team.
Additionally, CMS allows incident-to billing of auxiliary staff under a physician’s general supervision, meaning a practice can seek help from outside of their practice. A RPM provider who offers this clinical support can serve as an extension of a PCP’s team.
Lack of Personal Medical Attention
Many medical practitioners (and some patients!) believe that embracing RPM could result in their patients getting less personalized medical attention from them. After all, having electronic health monitoring devices tracking blood pressure or glucose could appear to be impersonal. In fact, the opposite is true. A qualitative review report published in the BMJ Open shows:
- RPM provides patients quick access to medical services when they need them the most.
- The data gathered from RPM medical devices enables PCPs to provide personalized, responsive, and timely care.
- PCPs and their teams often struggle to oversee patients’ medication compliance, because they can only take the patient’s word that they are following the prescription. Some RPMs include medication management capabilities, which provide irrefutable evidence of adherence or non-adherence that allows medical teams to intervene earlier.
The ability to spot anomalies from the health data captured enables PCPs to identify at-risk patients and take action to mitigate the severity of their condition faster than if they waited for patients to seek help.
High Technology Costs
There’s an ongoing misconception that remote patient monitoring comes at a high infrastructure cost. After two years of pandemic-related cutbacks, many smaller physician practices believe it’s an unreasonably expensive option for them to invest in health monitoring devices and software to connect them.
Actually, the pandemic has been a catalyst for more affordable and easier-to-use virtual solutions. These include HIPAA-compliant, web-based RPM solutions, mobile apps, and text-based engagement options, all of which increase flexibility and access for providers and patients with minimal upfront technology investment.
Under the current U.S. aging population phenomenon, 16.9% of Americans were aged 65 and older as of 2020. According to the National Council on Aging, 80% of this group have at least one chronic condition, while 68% have two or more conditions. Digital literacy is not a strength for this demographic, so many PCPs wonder whether their patients will be able to manage the demands of digital RPM. In practice, PCPs themselves are often concerned about the challenges of deploying a remote health monitoring solution.
However, since most modern RPM systems are web-based and easy to use, there’s a minimal learning curve for the staff. Patients and employees get training and support from qualified nursing staff who oversee the system, keeping technological challenges to a minimum.
Loss of the “Local” Component
Most patients use a family physician practice near to their home as their go-to PCP, simply because it’s convenient and doesn’t require traveling very far. Physicians considering remote patient monitoring often express concern about losing some of their patient base to other PCPs, once proximity is no longer an issue.
However, this concern is largely unfounded, because RPM is not used in place of regularly scheduled office visits. It is used in between office visits and even when video telehealth is in play. There will always be occasions when an in-person visit is required.
Impact on Revenue
One of the primary barriers to RPM adoption among PCPs is that RPM is expensive, or that embracing this option will reduce reimbursements and impact their revenue. Many practices are struggling to regain their footing after the COVID-19 losses, and they can’t afford to risk any further reduction in income. In fact, while we are seeing many Medicare cuts in fee-for-service reimbursement, CMS has increased reimbursements surrounding RPM and other chronic care management programs over the last 4 consecutive years. Plans are in place to continue growing these programs in 2023, as per the proposed fee schedule.
Research from the Center for Connected Health Policy also shows 30 states have Medicaid programs that provide reimbursement for RPM.
This means remote patient monitoring offers opportunities for PCPs to generate more revenue from reimbursements. At the same time, they lower overhead and staffing costs. They use fewer supplies than during in-person visits, improve efficiencies, and decrease their admin expenses. These factors all help to improve profitability and boost their return on investment.
Overcoming the Barriers
Deploying an RPM program internally can be challenging due to staff limitations and other factors, particularly with programs that don’t offer support services. Management support by the RPM vendor can help practices avoid these pitfalls, ensure higher patient compliance, and greater program success.
For example, if a patient doesn’t use their device at least 16 times a month, the practice loses a big portion of the reimbursement so these actions are critical for patient compliance and program success. Dealing with elderly patients who have chronic diseases doesn’t fall under the auspices of artificial intelligence, so staff still need to talk them through activities such as how to use a BP meter, which button to press, or to call and remind them to use the device.
While 57% of U.S. medical practices already use RPM, this is expected to increase to 76% in the next two years. Many of the practices that adopted remote health monitoring solutions successfully have addressed these challenges and positioned themselves for future success. PCPs who resist usually cite time, effort, and technology as their primary challenges, as well as the cost needed to implement the solution. With up to 66% of practices reporting positive outcomes from implementing RPM, it appears that the effort required to overcome these barriers is worthwhile.
For more information about RemetricHealth’s remote patient monitoring program, please contact us to discuss your needs and arrange a demonstration.