by Tammie Smeltz, Content Marketing Manager, and Al Anthony Mercado, Esq., Managing Attorney, Mercado May-Skinner Law
If you’re interested in improving patient outcomes, reducing costs and enhancing quality of life for patients with chronic illnesses, consider using remote patient monitoring (RPM). This form of telehealth allows patients to electronically transmit health-related data to their healthcare providers using health apps, wearables or implantable devices.
RPM is not new to the healthcare industry. Since the onset of the pandemic, the use of RPM has largely accelerated. According to Insider Intelligence, by 2024, 60.6 million patients in the United States will be using RPM to transmit health-related data to their healthcare providers.
RPM may be used with both acute and chronically ill patients. Patients with diagnoses such as high blood pressure, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, asthma, cancer and long COVID may benefit from RPM. In addition, healthcare systems are implementing hospital-at-home programs that provide healthcare services to patients with acute conditions in the comfort of their own homes. These services include imaging, echocardiograms, oxygen therapy and IV therapy.
The use of RPM allows patients to take an active role in their own health care. RPM gives providers the ability to assess and treat underserved communities and patients living in rural areas. It is a simple way for providers to stay connected with patients which, in turn, can improve outcomes. Additionally, RPM is covered by both federal and private payers which makes it financially attractive to patients and providers. The following are some additional benefits of remote patient monitoring:
- Improved data-driven clinical decision-making. Because RPM allows physicians to monitor patients’ data in real time, changes to their healthcare plan can be made quickly.
- Optimized clinical staff efficiency, which combats clinical staff shortages. The medical field is experiencing severe staffing shortages. Some forms of RPM integrate with the electronic health record, thereby decreasing physician documentation time. Additionally, utilizing RPM may allow for more virtual patient visits which decreases the amount of follow-up appointments in the office.
- Reduced cost of care for payers and providers. According to Health Recovery Solutions, RPM has demonstrated a significant impact in reducing potentially avoidable emergency department visits, hospitalizations and re-admissions and enables earlier acute discharge. This results in shorter hospital admissions and reduced costs.
- Boosted net patient revenue. RPM reduces administrative costs and improves workflow and staff productivity, resulting in an increase in net patient revenue.
- Improved physician-patient relationships. Incorporating RPM enhances communication with patients, resulting in greater patient satisfaction. Patients feel comfortable using RPM because it makes them feel connected to their physicians.
Certain specialties such as cardiology, can easily incorporate RPM into their practice. For example, RPM may be a successful tool in treating patients with heart failure. Close patient monitoring is crucial in the treatment of patients with this condition due to their vulnerability and risk for sudden decompensation. Using RPM with cardiology patients is an effective way to assess the day-to-day changes in a patient’s health. This could include virtual health visits, remote nursing assessments, blood pressure cuffs, glucometers and pulse oximetry, as well as wearable or implantable devices. Holistically monitoring biometric data may decrease emergency room visits for cardiology patients, improve their quality of life and allow for better medication control.
Another specialty that has seen success with RPM is oncology. A recent study published in BMJ showed positive results when monitoring side effects in patients receiving chemotherapy for breast cancer, colon cancer, Hodgkin’s disease and non-Hodgkin’s disease. The study involved 829 patients broken down to two groups. Patients in the “intervention group” completed a daily questionnaire using a hand-held device. Based upon the answers, hospital clinicians were notified as needed to address any adverse effects. The intervention group also received self-care advice which allowed them to treat their symptoms at home. The “control group” received standard care at a cancer center. The study found that there was no increase of symptoms while receiving chemotherapy in the intervention group. The control group reported an increase in symptoms after the first round of chemo. Additionally, the patients in the intervention group felt more confident and less anxious.
Before implementing RPM into your practice, providers should be aware of certain concerns associated with RPM and take preventive measures to address them. One concern is security and confidentiality. Since RPM entails transmitting sensitive medical data remotely (over the internet), it makes RPM vulnerable to data breaches, cyber-attacks and other online threats that can compromise patient information. A way to address this concern is for providers to use enhanced security such as ECC (elliptic curve cryptography).
Another concern is data accuracy. It can be universally agreed that inaccurate data is worse than no data. To address this concern, providers should use RPM equipment that is of high quality, ensure it is calibrated properly and provide patients with education concerning its use.
For guidance on RPM implementation, we recommend consulting the following resources:
- AMA’s Remote Patient Monitoring Implementation Playbook
- MLMIC’s Benefits and Risks Associated with Remote Patient Monitoring
- American Heart Association’s Using Remote Patient Monitoring Technologies for Better Cardiovascular Disease Outcomes
You may also contact the attorneys at Mercado May-Skinner Law at any time with questions regarding RPM.