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The COVID-19 pandemic sparked a dramatic shift to telehealth and virtual care. Trends indicate that virtual care is here for good and rapidly expanding into digitally-enabled care management solutions such as remote patient monitoring (RPM). Remote Patient Monitoring can help improve Chronic Care Management.
RPM is a telehealth tool that collects health data, including:
- Heart rate
- Blood sugar
- Vital signs
- Blood pressure
Afterward, patient data is transmitted to healthcare providers. Commonly-used RPM devices include glucose and blood pressure monitors, weight scales and pulse oximeters.1
One of the most significant benefits of remote patient monitoring is its ability to help improve chronic care management by providing access to real-time patient data.
RemetricHealth is just one example of an RPM provider helping primary care practices routinely monitor their patients’ health.
“Using RemetricHealth home monitoring has allowed us to better track our patients trying to manage their chronic conditions, specifically hypertension,” says Jodi Tate, population health director at Canyonlands Healthcare in Page, AZ.
“Using the data spread out over weeks instead of just the one snapshot the provider gets in the clinic [at] a visit has helped inform their medical decisions.”
Since the pandemic, RPM use has exploded, and experts expect this to continue. An estimated 29.1 million U.S. patients used RPM in 2020. This figure jumped up to 39.3 patients in 2021. And in 2025, that number is likely to balloon to 70.6 million.2
Here’s a look at some of the specific RPM benefits for chronic care management.
Alerts physicians of potential issues earlier
Morgan Breiner, a population health nurse at Grand River Medical Group in Dubuque, IA, says she receives an alert when patients have abnormal vitals.
“I’ll call the patient to see how they’re feeling if we need to make any changes right away,” she says. “We’ve been able to offer immediate intervention for anything abnormal.”
The close contact between healthcare providers and patients also allows for earlier care and treatment. “If they’re just feeling unwell one day, they know that they can reach out to myself or another nurse and that [any] questions or concerns will be answered,” says Breiner.
Gives patients more options
Breiner notes that one of the other benefits of RPM is that it allows physician practices to offer another practice mode aside from traditional in-person visits.
“We can accommodate people who may not be able to come into the office for several different reasons,” she says.
Helps improve adherence to preventative care
Because RPM gives patients a hands-on approach to their care, Breiner says this increases patient adherence.
“It allows them to have some independence with checking their own vitals and seeing the changes,” she explains.
Leads to better patient outcomes
Remote patient monitoring also helps improves chronic care management by boosting patient outcomes.
“We began distributing these monitors with the help of community health workers in October,” says Tate. “The patients in the cohorts of users have improved from having a 40.7% present control rate of their hypertension to 50.09% control rate as of April 30, 2022.”
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), which has one of the most extensive RPM programs in the United States, has reported this as well. In 2018, the VA found markedly improved patient outcomes, such as a 53% decrease in inpatient hospital days and a 33% decrease in hospital admissions.3
Improves access to care
“People with chronic conditions typically have a harder time getting out of the house or even just getting to appointments in general ,” notes Breiner.
They may feel unwell, have difficulty getting around or may need to bring heavy equipment with them.
Transportation problems are also a genuine concern, including:
- No vehicle access
- Long distances
- Poor infrastructure
- Transportation costs
Tate says that according to the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), the communities Canyonlands Healthcare serves are designated rural areas, so patients in these areas may have farther to travel and be less likely or able to make regular medical visits. She also notes that RPM has vastly improved access to care for the patients in these communities. “We have seen improvements, particularly in our minority patients,” she says.
Every year, 3.6 million Americans do not get medical care due to these issues,4 but RPM and telehealth can bridge that barrier.
Results in fewer patient no-shows
No one likes waiting at the doctor’s office. And when you have regular visits to monitor your chronic condition, you may forget an appointment or even feel tempted to skip it.
RPM’s continuous monitoring lets you decide on your patients’ treatments without necessarily having to see them in the clinic. You can still do routine virtual visits — which take less time — and check-in immediately if a patient’s RPM data is abnormal.
Increases patient satisfaction
Research shows that RPM use boosts patient satisfaction. For example, the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center increased patient satisfaction to more than 90% in 1,500 patients over a year and a half using RPM technology.2
And in 2018, the VA reported 89% patient satisfaction scores for RPM in over 136,700 patients.3
Tate sees an increase in patient satisfaction at Canyonlands as well. The patients appreciate their weekly follow-ups with an assigned community health worker.
If a patient isn’t taking their blood pressure as often as they should, “the community health worker reaches out and asks about barriers the patient may be experiencing and connects them to appropriate community resources,” Tate says.
This has also helped address patients’ social determinants of health and increased the frequency of communication.
Results in fewer hospitalizations and emergency room visits
Studies have found that RPM of cardiovascular disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) can help reduce:5
- Hospital admissions
- Length of hospital stays
- Emergency room visits
Breiner says she also sees this at Grand River Group, thanks to the early intervention when abnormal readings come up.
Allows for shorter hospital stays
Patients with chronic conditions are more likely to need hospitalization.
When discharging patients with an RPM device to use at home is possible, they don’t need to stay in the hospital as long for monitoring.1
Supports patient independence
Breiner says she has noticed that patients from rural communities tend to become more independent. Using RPM allows them to keep some of that independence.
“They’re able to check their vitals at home and report any of them if they need to. They can also talk to their doctor without coming into the office. This way, they can stay home a little bit longer,” Breiner says.
Helps boost practice revenue
Implementing RPM for patients with chronic conditions improves chronic care management and helps generate a new source of recurring revenue. A variety of codes can be billed each month for reimbursement using RPM.
For instance, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has expanded reimbursements for RPM for the following services:6
- Patient education and setup: $19 one-time fee (CPT Code 99453)
- Equipment supply: $63 per patient/month (CPT Code 99454)
- First 20 minutes of monitoring and care management: $51 per patient/month (CPT Code 99457)
- Additional 20 minutes of monitoring and care management: $42 per patient/month (CPT Code 9948)
Helps protect patients from infectious diseases
Chronic conditions can pose a higher patient risk of infection. Virtual care lessens the risk of exposure to illnesses. Fewer patients in the clinic means less exposure for healthcare workers too.
Physician practices can reap the multiple benefits of remote patient monitoring for themselves and their patients. If your practice is considering adopting RPM, you may want to read more detailed information about the revenue that RPM can generate and how RPM improves patient care.