Before 2020, remote patient home monitoring, also known as remote patient monitoring or RPM, was starting to generate some buzz. Healthcare providers were increasingly assessing the function that such virtual technology should play in the delivery of care. Pundits generally agreed that virtual care would eventually take on a significant role but that it would require some time before providers, payers, and patients fully embraced the concept.
Then COVID-19 arrived, and virtual care became an essential service seemingly overnight. Now virtual care technology, including remote patient home monitoring, is expected to "redefine healthcare and public health," notes Healthcare IT News. This article includes some eye-opening statistics: The consulting firm McKinsey suggests that $250 billion in healthcare spending could shift to virtual care models and FAIR Health data indicates that telehealth claim lines increased more than 4,000% nationally from March 2019 to March 2020, growing from about 0.17% of medical claim lines to more than 7.5% over that period. The author of the column—who oversees a technology consulting firm —believes that 80 to 90% of all outpatient visits could eventually become "virtualized" in some fashion.
Suffice it to say, remote patient home monitoring is not only here, but here to stay. Healthcare practices nationwide are exploring how to incorporate remote patient home monitoring into their services. The good news is that it is a great time to launch a remote patient home monitoring program. In 2020, remote patient monitoring CPT codes (99453, 99454, 99457, and 99458) were overhauled. This made RPM one of the most lucrative Medicare care management programs. Commercial payers are increasingly covering remote patient home monitoring (some by choice, some forced by law). And consumers are rapidly embracing virtual care technology and finding tremendous satisfaction with the experience.
Patient Buy-In Critical to Remote Patient Home Monitoring Success
Even with all of the stars seemingly aligned for remote patient home monitoring, the success of a program is not guaranteed. A few steps are critical. One is choosing the right remote patient monitoring system, which we previously discussed here. Another is patient buy-in. To ensure the short- and long-term viability of a remote patient home monitoring program, you will need patients to initially agree to your recommendation that they begin to use a remote patient home monitoring device and then remain engaged and continue to use the device over time.
Such success will largely depend upon your ability to effectively educate patients on remote patient home monitoring and your program. Consider following these six recommended practices.
1. Define Remote Patient Home Monitoring
Securing patient buy-in begins with ensuring your patients understand the concept of remote patient home monitoring. Do not assume patients have a strong grasp of the concept. Despite the increased attention remote patient home monitoring, as part of the greater focus on virtual care technology, is receiving during the health crisis, most patients are probably fuzzy on the details of the concept. Others may not be familiar with remote patient home monitoring at all. Then there are those who may confuse it with telehealth or the patient monitoring systems used in controlled healthcare environments to track the likes of body temperature, respiration, arrhythmia detection, oxygen saturation, and end-tidal carbon dioxide.
For help with defining remote patient home monitoring and contrasting it with telehealth and patient monitoring, check out this blog.
2. Describe How Remote Patient Home Monitoring Works
With the concept defined, you will be in a better position to provide patients with a general understanding of how remote patient home monitoring works. While the details will vary based upon the data your practice is collecting and device(s) used (more on this below), we think this summary from the Center for Connected Health Policy effectively summarizes the remote patient monitoring home process: "Remote patient [home] monitoring uses digital technologies to collect medical and other forms of health data from individuals in one location and electronically transmit that information securely to healthcare providers in a different location for assessment and recommendations. This type of service allows a provider to continue to track healthcare data for a patient once released to home or a care facility…"
3. Explain the Value of Remote Patient Home Monitoring
Defining remote patient home monitoring and providing a broad description of how the process works may be enough to bring some patients on board. However, others will be looking for you to explain why they should proceed with this relatively novel form of care delivery. In other words, what is the value and benefits to patients of remote patient home monitoring?
The answer to this will vary based upon the condition(s) you want to manage via remote patient monitoring, but the patient benefits of using remote patient home monitoring generally include the following:
- Keeping people healthy — This includes allowing people to reduce the need to leave their homes and travel to a practice to receive the services provided via remote patient home monitoring, which is particularly beneficial during the pandemic when social distancing is critical to maintaining safety.
- Increased collaboration between patient and provider
- Allowing the patient to be a more active participant in their care
- Reducing the number of hospitalizations, readmissions, and hospital lengths of stay
- Reducing patient overall costs — This includes not only healthcare costs but also costs associated with traveling to a practice to receive services.
- Permitting older and disabled individuals to remain at home longer and delay or avoid moving into skilled nursing facilities
When discussing the benefits of remote patient home monitoring, it is important to highlight a broad range of benefits. Different patients may be motivated to embrace remote patient home monitoring because of different benefits. For example, some will get on board when they hear that they will not need to leave their home as much to receive care. Others may only need to heat that remote patient home monitoring will reduce their expenses. You may even have some patients who sign up just because they are excited to try new technology.
4. Provide Instructions on Remote Patient Home Monitoring Device Setup and Usage
What your practice will need to do to guide patients on how to set up and use their remote patient home monitoring devices will be determined by several factors. Perhaps the most significant is whether the devices use cellular or Bluetooth technology. A cellular device — with an embedded cellular modem — is typically simple to set up and use, only requiring patients to insert batteries and turn the device on. A Bluetooth device, on the other hand, requires the completion of more steps, which may include downloading and installing a smartphone app, connecting the device to the smartphone, and ensuring the smartphone can access Wi-Fi.
How much work you will need to do to help patients complete these processes and troubleshoot any issues that arise will depend upon the company you partner with to serve as your remote patient home monitoring vendor and the type of program you enter into with this partner. Some remote patient home monitoring device vendors will provide your practice with device setup instructions and then expect you to take the lead on helping patients going forward. Other vendors will be more active in supporting setup and answering questions that come up during setup and ongoing usage. Full-service programs (often associated with cellular devices) typically include a more active vendor that provides technical support while self-managed programs (often associated with Bluetooth devices) typically require practices to handle the bulk of the work.
When onboarding new patients onto your remote patient home monitoring program, ensure that they clearly understand what is required to set up and use their device and where they should go for technical assistance. Do not assume that any instructions included with a device will be sufficient for all users. If there is any ambiguity or difficulty in setup and usage, patients may quickly grow frustrated and decide against or opt out of your program.
5. Deliver Remote Patient Home Monitoring Education Via Multiple Channels
To best ensure successful education and then subsequent buy-in and engagement, you will want to employ a variety of methods to effectively cater to differing patient needs.
For example, some patients may prefer an initial discussion about remote patient home monitoring in person, over the phone, or via videoconference. Others may want to receive information by direct mail, email, or through links to resources delivered via text message. Providing information on your practice's website about your program and specific devices, including setup and troubleshooting, can serve as a valuable reference for patients who are comfortable accessing information in this manner. For setup of more complex (i.e., Bluetooth) devices, consider posting or linking to videos from your website.
When performing initial outreach to patients about your remote patient home monitoring program, ask if they have a preference for how they would like to receive education. This will help them feel like they are in greater control of their experience and may help alleviate some concerns about using a new technology. By making it as easy as possible for patients to join and remain active participants in your remote patient home monitoring program, you should be able to achieve and maintain success in delivering virtual care while streamlining operations, thus keeping costs and resource usage lower.
6. Strengthen Remote Patient Home Monitoring Education
The final recommended practice is to look for opportunities to improve patient education concerning your remote patient home monitoring program. Such efforts can include something as simple as revising language used to reduce possible confusion to more significant undertakings, such as developing new teaching resources and leveraging new communication channels.
Regularly request feedback from patients about their experience with your remote patient home monitoring program, including where they thought education was strong and weak and any ideas they have for improvement. If patients stop using the device and ask to opt out of the program, work to determine the reason(s) and explore whether you can make changes to how you provide education that could help avoid a similar fate for other patients. You should also ask staff who support your remote patient home monitoring program and are involved with patient education if they have recommendations for improvement or new ideas to enhance your education efforts. Even small enhancements may reap significant short- and long-term rewards for your program.