There is a lot of misconception and confusion surrounding remote patient monitoring (RPM). Some aren’t quite sure what it is or where it fits in. Many think it’s to be used explicitly with live-video visits or “telehealth” programs. And others are baffled by the idea of implementing a new program while still struggling to make up for lost revenue and depleted staff due to Covid.
What’s the difference between Remote Patient Monitoring and Telehealth?
Well, it depends on which medical organization, association, or publication you reference. The truth is, there are various definitions out there and they’ve all evolved over time. Here are the fundamentals.
Remote Patient Monitoring is when patients use biometric medical devices at home (such as a blood pressure monitor, a weight scale, a pulse oximeter, etc.) and their results are automatically and wirelessly transmitted to a healthcare professional in a different location. Example: a patient is at home, steps on their scale, and see’s their current weight on the screen of the scale. At the same time, the patient’s weight measurement is automatically transmitted to the patient’s electronic medical record or HIPAA compliant web portal for a healthcare professional to review. If the patient’s weight falls outside of a certain threshold (often compared to their previous reading), the healthcare professional will also be notified of this so they can assess and respond more quickly as needed.
Prior to 2019, Remote Patient Monitoring unanimously fell under the term “Telehealth”. Telehealth is the category, or umbrella term, and applications such as Remote Patient Monitoring, Live Video Conferencing, Mobile Health, and Store and Forward Data were all part of this category or fell under the “telehealth umbrella”. However, in 2019 CMS unbundled (removed) RPM from the Telehealth category and designated it as a separately-payable service. That was a landmark change for RPM because it finally allowed it to be used and reimbursed by Medicare without the restrictions it endured when bundled under Telehealth.
To further clarify, Medicare reimbursements for RPM are completely separate and in addition to live-video visits or other telehealth services.
Is Remote Patient Monitoring only used in conjunction with Live-Video Telehealth?
Absolutely not. While RPM undeniably adds value to video telehealth visits, it is also utilized independently as a value-add to traditional in-office visits, particularly for primary care and internal medicine. Unlike some concerns around live-video telehealth, RPM is not intended to be used as an alternative to in-person office visits but rather as an adjunct to help support patient care and decrease wasteful spending.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid have been long-standing proponents of RPM and its proven ability to lower costs and improve patient outcomes. They’ve recently proposed adding five new codes to complement the four existing reimbursements for Remote Patient Monitoring, which would mark 2022 as the 4th consecutive year we’ve witnessed CMS expand coverage for RPM.
How does a practice that is already extremely busy, implement a new program like RPM?
We’ve established that RPM is not a replacement for office visits and we know most physician practices are already under tremendous pressure with their current workload, staff shortages, and recent revenue hit.
So how does a practice even consider implementing RPM?
The truth is, most can’t do it alone. However, a well-established, experienced, and affordable RPM company can implement and manage the program on behalf of the practice. With the right partner, the program yields improved outcomes and patient satisfaction, a more efficient way to manage the growing number of patients with chronic disease, and a new (strong) reoccurring revenue stream.
If you are considering implementing RPM, have questions, or are just looking for more information, please contact us. After 10+ years in the space, our team has extensive knowledge and we are here ready to help. We can help clear up any misconception surrounding remote patient monitoring.