In a recent Medical Economics column, I shared some of the most significant updates concerning remote patient monitoring (RPM). Among them:
- Remote patient monitoring is now one of the more lucrative Medicare care management programs, thanks to an overhaul of the RPM CPT codes (99453, 99454, 99457, and 99458).
- Medicare is making it easier for practices to provide RPM services, and private payer coverage of RPM is growing.
- The COVID-19 pandemic has helped drive adoption and use of remote patient monitoring devices in healthcare.
- A rapidly growing number of patients are interested in virtual care services like RPM, their interest fueled by the health crisis.
The column concluded by asserting that the stars have aligned for remote patient monitoring, and it is an optimal time to consider launching or growing RPM programs. Another motivating factor for practices is that they now have several choices of remote patient monitoring medical devices to offer patients and include in their programs. From these options, practices can select the devices that will best meet the short- and long-term care needs of their patients and maximize RPM programs’ revenue potential.
Remote Patient Monitoring Devices 101
Here is some background information about four common examples of remote patient monitoring devices that practices should consider.
1. Blood pressure monitor
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), almost half of U.S. adults have hypertension, and nearly half a million U.S. deaths in 2017 included hypertension as a primary or contributing cause. Practices are increasingly leveraging blood pressure monitors, typically cuffs worn on patients' wrists, to improve hypertension management. As the American Heart Association notes, research has shown that remote cardiac monitoring can greatly reduce patient blood pressure compared to typical care and self-monitoring alone.
The use of a remote blood pressure monitor allows practitioners to perform ongoing virtual monitoring and treatment of hypertension/high blood pressure. In addition, remote monitoring helps avoid misleading blood pressure readings due to "white-coat hypertension." These false results occur when blood pressure readings are higher during in-person practice visits than they are when patients are in other settings (e.g., home, office) due to the stress of meeting with a practitioner. Such a misleading reading may be even more commonplace during the pandemic, with some patients experiencing higher stress when leaving their home and going to a setting often associated with sick people.
2. Weight monitor
We hear a lot about the obesity problem in the United States, but it may be worse than you realize. CDC notes that more than 42% of the American population was considered obese in 2017–2018. This figure is up from about 31% in 1999–2000. Also, the prevalence of severe obesity increased from about 5% to about 9% during this period. Obesity-related conditions include heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and certain types of preventable cancer.
Practices can use remote weight monitoring, typically performed via a scale, for multiple purposes. For congestive heart failure patients, a sudden weight gain of even just a few pounds may be an indicator that the condition is worsening, prompting practitioners to take action, such as adjusting existing medications, prescribing a diuretic, or arranging an in-person or virtual (telehealth) visit.
For practitioners working to help patients lose weight, ongoing monitoring can help assess trends and measure success. If unexpected, rapid weight loss occurs, remote weight monitoring helps ensure it is identified quickly. Practitioners can then work to reduce the risks associated with sudden weight loss, which include weakened bones, compromised immune system, dehydration, and fatigue.
3. Blood glucose monitor
Monitoring blood glucose levels is critical for keeping patients with diabetes safe. Patients often do not feel particular symptoms associated with diabetes until they experience hyperglycemia (glucose level too high) or hypoglycemia (glucose level too low). Untreated hyperglycemia can lead to the life-threatening condition of ketoacidosis (diabetic coma) and other complications affecting the eyes, kidneys, nerves, and heart. Untreated hypoglycemia can initially lead to blurred vision, confusion, slurred speech, and drowsiness, and eventually more significant complications, such as seizures, coma, and sometimes death.
Blood glucose monitoring can be performed using various types of remote patient monitoring devices, some of which do not require patients to draw blood. Practitioners can use the data captured by a remote blood glucose monitoring device to detect potential alarming changes in glucose level and take immediate actions. Also, the data can provide insights that practitioners will use to guide recommendations concerning medications, diet, and exercise.
Diabetes patients are some of the most aware concerning digital health, and monitoring blood glucose levels is one of the most effective remote patient monitoring applications. Remote monitoring of glucose levels has been proven to reduce the need for in-person visits to practices. In addition, a study showed that 70% of high-risk diabetic patients were able to lower their A1C levels by using remote patient monitoring medical devices
The spirometer may be the least common of the examples of remote patient monitoring devices listed here, but practitioners should expect to be hearing a lot more about remote spirometry. Spirometry, also known as pulmonary function testing, measures lung function. Specifically, a spirometer measures the volume (i.e., amount) and/or flow (i.e., speed) of air that an individual can inhale or exhale. Spirometry testing plays an essential role in diagnosing lung diseases as well as assessing and monitoring conditions such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
While a spirometer is typically used by a patient during an in-person practice visit, remote spirometry was on the uptick even before the COVID-19 health crisis. Remote spirometry allows practitioners to monitor a patient's lung condition virtually as well as assess whether treatments, including medications, are proving successful in helping patients better manage breathing issues. The pandemic will likely contribute to a greater surge in remote lung function monitoring for those with respiratory risks. High-risk patients with chronic respiratory conditions should take extra precautions, including limiting their interactions with other people as much as possible.
In addition, using a spirometer requires a patient to blow into the device, typically 3 to 10 times. If a patient who is infected with COVID-19 uses a spirometer during an in-person practice visit, exhaling in such a manner can increase the potential exposure for anyone in the practice.
Offering Remote Patient Monitoring Devices to Patients
If you are interested in offering one or more of these remote patient monitoring devices or other RPM devices to your patients, schedule a no-obligation demo of the Prevounce Remote Patient Monitoring system. And if you’re not ready for a demo, call (800) 618-7738. You’ll speak with one of our customer service representatives who will answer the questions you have about RPM and how to determine what devices are right for your practice and patients.