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Expand your telemedicine practice with Remote Patient Monitoring

The COVID-19 pandemic led to the exploration of numerous novel health technologies, of which telemedicine played a central role. Now, continuing technological advances allow providers to extend telemedicine beyond audio and video consultations to the field of Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM).

What is Remote Patient Monitoring?

RPM can be defined as the use of technology to monitor patients’ health by capturing and recording patient physiological data outside of a traditional healthcare setting. Through RPM, patients’ health data is transmitted using electronic communications to a provider in a different location, so it can be used for patient care and support. RPM technology ranges from sensors attached to the patient’s body to contactless monitoring that only requires the patient to be within a few meters to operate.

RPM helps healthcare providers deliver better care to patients who might benefit from more consistent monitoring, including:

  • Patients with chronic conditions
  • Patients with mobility issues, such as older and disabled patients
  • Patients recently released from the hospital

Click here to learn more about the features offered by Practice Fusion that support RPM and your virtual practice.

Keep reading to learn how RPM can expand your telemedicine practice and help you to provide better care to your patients while they are out of the office.

The many faces of RPM

RPM can be used to collect a broad range of health data, including:

  • Weight
  • Blood pressure
  • Blood glucose levels
  • Blood oxygen levels
  • Heart rate
  • Respiration rate
  • Electrocardiograms
  • Temperature
  • Neural system activity
  • Fall detection
  • Patient activity level
  • Sleep data

Chronic conditions

One of RPM’s most common uses is to monitor patients with chronic conditions, enabling providers to intervene if additional disease management is needed. Heart monitoring systems are one of the most common uses of RPM technology, possibly because heart-related illness are the primary cause of mortality worldwide. Diabetes monitoring systems are another common application. These utilize continuous glucose monitors and remind patients to take insulin, when needed, while permitting providers to monitor the disease.

Mobility issues

RPM is also often used for patients with mobility issues, such as older and disabled patients and patients recovering from surgery. Fall detection and mobility-related disease monitoring systems primarily target the elderly community and accident recovery patients. This type of system can reduce the length of hospital stays post-surgery. They can also help patients to continue living at home longer, improving their quality of life.

Brain, neurological disorders, and mental health

A 2016 review analyzed studies using physical activity monitoring in neurological conditions such as multiple sclerosis (MS), stroke, Parkinson’s Disease, dementia, traumatic brain injury, and ataxia. Their analysis found that remote monitoring revealed altered patterns of physical activity and may predict falls in Parkinson’s Disease. Remote monitoring showed consistently low levels of physical activity in people with MS, stroke, and dementia. RPM was also able to detect wandering in patients with dementia. Overall, the review concluded that physical activity monitoring is feasible in patients with a range of neurological conditions.

Emergency care for accident victims

For victims of accidents or sudden injuries, RPM might be used while they are in route to the hospital. Using real-time data from the patient, emergency physicians can help coordinate immediate medical interventions for critical situations. This would also enable physicians to monitor the patient’s condition and provide guidance for the emergency medical technicians on-site with the patient.

Why RPM is taking center stage

RPM technology has existed for years, but as the technology has become smarter and more affordable, it has also started to become more widely adopted. In the past, it wasn’t widely used in part because there were few incentives for providers to try it. On top of that, few payers were willing to provide reimbursement for RPM usage. However, the pandemic created an increased need for ways to provide remote healthcare. RPM has provided an effective solution.

At the same time, healthcare is shifting from a fee-for-service model to the value-based care approach. This means that patient care is shifting from a reactive model to a care model that is more proactive and continuous. RPM is an effective tool for giving patients more continuous care to deal with the continuous nature of chronic conditions. RPM is a good fit for value-based care because it is an effective way to improve patient outcomes, limit expenses, and decrease patients’ use of more expensive healthcare services.

RPM technology has also been gaining acceptance because reimbursement challenges are slowly being overcome. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has been slowly increasing coverage for RPM since 2019. With the 2022 Physician Fee Schedule, CMS has added coverage for “remote therapeutic monitoring,” defined as tracking non-physiological data such as medication adherence, pain level, or response to medication or therapy. This further expands the types of patient data healthcare providers can collect and analyze for RPM.

Does RPM really work?

There are several examples demonstrating the successful use of RPM technology. Healthcare providers at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center decreased the risk of hospital readmissions by 76% by providing patients with tablets and RPM devices such as blood pressure cuffs and pulse oximeters. The program also resulted in numerous cases of avoided emergency room visits; prescriptions filled for sick patients; and critically ill patients located at home when they failed to answer RPM requests. Patient satisfaction for this program (which had more than 1500 enrolled) was over 90%.

The University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) cardiac telehealth program has also made successful use of RPM. This organization began implementation of a combination of telehealth and RPM to reduce hospital readmissions and improve outcomes for their cardiac patients. Patients were sent home with wearable devices to track physiological data such as blood pressure, weight, and oxygen saturation. Data collection was combined with video conferencing to enable physicians to monitor patients’ progress at home. If concerning data were detected, the physician could bring a patient back for a face-to-face visit, preventing potential complications. As a result, hospital readmission rates among cardiac patients declined by about one-third, from 15% to 10%.

Children’s Health in Dallas is successfully using RPM tools to monitor medication compliance. Patients wear a patch that detects when they take their medication, allowing care providers at the hospital to track compliance in real time.

KLAS Research conducted a survey on the implementation of RPM in partnership with the American Telemedicine Association. They spoke with twenty-five organizations, each of which was using one of the seven leading RPM platforms. Study participants reported the following key outcomes:

  • 38% decrease in hospital admissions
  • 25% decrease in hospital readmissions
  • 25% decrease in emergency room (ER) visits
  • 25% improved patient satisfaction
  • 17% quantified cost reductions
  • 13% improved medication compliance
  • 13% overall improvement in patient health
  • 8% decreased A1c levels

A systematic review of RPM studies published between 2000 and 2018 showed that the number of such studies has been increasing over the years, with 43% of those included in the review published between 2015 and 2018. Most of these studies (76.8%) reported positive results, leading the reviewers to conclude that the use of RPM appears to optimize patient care and effectiveness of treatment.

Integrating RPM into your practice

RPM is a rapidly developing field, one that can enable you to provide your patients with more continuous monitoring and care. RPM can help improve the quality of chronic care management; can help improve quality of life for your patients with mobility issues; and can help contain medical costs by decreasing rates for hospital admissions, readmissions, and ER visits.

Practice Fusion supports RPM integrations for your practice. Once you select and sign up with an integrated RPM service provider, you will be able to enroll eligible patients in an RPM program through the electronic health record (EHR) system. The RPM service provider will connect with patients for onboarding and delivery of the condition-specific RPM monitoring device. The RPM care team delivers monitoring, clinical management, care plan execution, and clinical interventions to enrolled patients. (The services provided by different RPM providers may vary, so please coordinate directly with your RPM service provider for details on their specific offerings.)

Contact us to learn more about how Practice Fusion can help you improve your telemedicine practice and provide your patients with better care using RPM.

  • Note: Practice Fusion is financially compensated by these RPM service providers.