Intro to Remote Patient Monitoring: Quick Facts to Know

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Remote Patient Monitoring
by Lucy Lamboley

Over the past decade, remote patient monitoring, or RPM, has been slowly gaining momentum. 2020 was already expected to be a big year for RPM, but “big year” turned out to be an understatement. The COVID-19 pandemic has spurred RPM into the spotlight, positioning it to become an essential health-care delivery service, embraced by providers, payers, and patients.

Even with all the publicity, there has been a bit of confusion about what types of care fall into RPM. Depending on the article you read, “Remote patient monitoring” can be used as a general term, a CPT coded service, or as a term of art. We wrote this fact sheet to help clarify things for both providers and patients alike. 

1. Definition of remote patient monitoring

Before we discuss remote patient monitoring in its technical medical coded context, it is worth defining the term more generally and asking, "What is remote patient monitoring?" For that, we turn to a few sources.

The Center for Connected Health Policy (CCHP) defines RPM as the following: "Remote patient monitoring (RPM) uses digital technologies to collect medical and other forms of health data from individuals in one location and electronically transmit that information securely to health-care providers in a different location for assessment and recommendations. This type of service allows a provider to continue to track health-care data for a patient once released to home or a care facility, reducing readmission rates."

The Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) notes, "Remote patient monitoring allows health providers to monitor disease and symptom progression remotely and then engage with patients virtually to modify care plans and to provide education on self-care, based on changes in the patient's condition."

Finally, the American Heart Association states, "Remote patient monitoring is a subset of telehealth that facilitates patient monitoring as well as the timely transfer of patient-generated data from patient to care team and back to the patient."

2. How remote patient monitoring works

Now that we have defined RPM, let's gain a better understanding of the service. How does remote patient monitoring work? It's relatively simple, on the surface. 

  1. A provider identifies the condition(s) it wants to manage remotely and launches a remote patient monitoring program to offer an RPM service to patients. Providers can use remote patient monitoring to collect a wide range of patient health data. This includes blood pressure, heart rate, vital signs, weight, and blood sugar levels.
  2. A provider determines that a patient would benefit from remote patient monitoring of one or more of the types of health data that can be captured via RPM. With the patient's consent, the provider orders or prescribes remote patient monitoring.
  3. The patient is provided with a device to collect the health data. Remote patient monitoring devices must be electronically connected, which is most often accomplished via Bluetooth or cellular networking. The most common RPM devices are blood pressure monitors, weight scales and blood glucose meters. Other device types that are seeing increased RPM use include pulse oximeters, ECG machines, and spirometers.
  4. Once the device is set up appropriately, health data is captured by the device and transmitted from patient to provider, usually electronically. 
  5. The provider analyzes this data and gives the patient health and wellness guidance and directions based upon the results.

To deliver remote patient monitoring services, providers will need to complete other steps, including determining coverage (if considering providing RPM to non-Medicare beneficiaries), establishing a patient base, choosing a device(s), setting up a patient intake program, developing policies and procedures, and training staff. Note: By partnering with a good remote patient monitoring program vendor, providers will not need to complete some of these steps and will receive assistance with others.

For patients, the ease of their receiving remote patient monitoring will primarily depend upon the design and/or complexity of the devices provided to them. Patients may require assistance (in-person or virtual) to use the technology. 

3. Benefits of remote patient monitoring

Why should providers go through the work of establishing a remote patient monitoring program? Let's review some of the benefits.

In addition to reducing readmission rates, CCHP notes that remote patient monitoring programs "… can also help keep people healthy, allow older and disabled individuals to live at home longer and avoid having to move into skilled nursing facilities. RPM can also serve to reduce the number of hospitalizations, readmissions, and lengths of stay in hospital—all of which help improve quality of life and contain costs."

A 2019 study from the Consumer Technology Association (CTA), titled "Connected Health and Remote Patient Monitoring: Consumer and Industry Use," provides additional insight. Among those included in CTA's national survey were more than 2,000 adults, 100 primary care physicians, 60 endocrinologists, and 40 nurses.

The top three benefits of remote patient monitoring cited by patients were detailed information on personalized health, faster access to health-care services, and greater influence on their own wellbeing through ownership of health data. Health-care professionals highlighted improved patient outcomes, improved compliance rates, and patients taking more ownership of their health. 

An additional benefit for providers deserving of attention is ongoing revenue. The COVID-19 health crisis has put a significant financial strain on practices. By providing remote patient monitoring services, providers can generate ongoing revenue. RPM is payable by Medicare, more than 23 state Medicaid programs as of April 2020, and an increasing number of private payers. Thanks to an overhaul of RPM CPT codes in 2020, remote patient monitoring has become one of the more lucrative Medicare care management programs. 

Reimbursement breaks down as follows: Practices receive a small payment for the initial patient enrollment. They are then paid a monthly base payment for managing the device and patient readings. There is an optional service for each 20 minutes of care management, up to 60 minutes total. Learn more about getting paid for RPM by downloading our free remote patient monitoring billing guide.

The Future of Remote Patient Monitoring is Bright

You now have a general understanding of remote patient monitoring, including why it is quickly becoming a sought-after service by patients and one that health-care practices should strongly consider adding. As the developer of a remote patient monitoring platform that helps practices easily expand patient care outside their walls, we are excited to see how RPM expands and evolves into the future.

We're certainly not alone. The CTA study cited above found that roughly two out of every three of the physicians surveyed indicated that they strongly intended to use remote patient monitoring technology to manage their patients' health in the future. The aforementioned Healthcare IT News article cited a 2019 Spyglass Consulting report that found nearly nine out of 10 hospitals and health systems had invested in or planned to invest in remote patient monitoring technologies as part of their transition to a value-based care model. Both studies were conducted before the COVID-19 pandemic, so it wouldn't be surprising if these figures are rising.

For more information on remote patient monitoring, see this comprehensive guide. If your organization is interested in learning more about why now is the perfect time to launch a remote patient monitoring program, please reach out to us. We'd love to show you how Prevounce makes adding RPM simple and highly worthwhile for you and your patients.

RPM Billing Guide

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