Definition Explained: What is Remote Patient Monitoring?

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Remote Patient Monitoring Device
by Lucy Lamboley

Little good has come out of the COVID-19 pandemic, but there are some silver linings. One is the increased adoption of virtual healthcare services and delivery systems. This includes remote patient monitoring, or RPM. Remote patient monitoring was a concept foreign to most individuals before the health crisis, but that is slowly changing as providers increasingly adopt the service and order it for their patients. 

Yet many people still lack a firm understanding of remote patient monitoring, so we thought it would be helpful to dedicate a blog that focuses on the RPM definition, including providing an RPM meaning in medical terms and contrasting the concept of remote patient monitoring with other terms often associated with it.

What is the meaning of RPM in medical terms?

To gain a better understanding of remote patient monitoring and determine an appropriate RPM definition, let's look at how several medical organizations, associations, and publications describe remote patient monitoring:

  • The U.S. Government Accountability Office states, "Remote patient monitoring refers to a coordinated system that uses one or more home-based or mobile monitoring devices that transmit vital sign data or information on activities of daily living that are subsequently reviewed by a healthcare professional."
  • A Medical Group Management Association (MGMA) blog states, "In simple terms, RPM is a device that collects patient data and transmits it via the internet to a physician. The collected data allows a physician to monitor changes in patient vital signs and act accordingly." 
  • The Center for Connected Health Policy states, "Remote patient monitoring (RPM) is the collection of a wide range of health data from the point of care, such as vital signs, weight, and blood pressure. The data is transmitted to health professionals in facilities such as monitoring centers in primary care settings, hospitals and intensive care units, and skilled nursing facilities."
  • A column in the Nashville Business Journal states, "Remote patient monitoring is the use of portable and wearable medical devices to monitor biometric indicators."
  • DocWireNews blog says that RPM is "… the use of portable, high-tech devices to track and relay data to your healthcare providers on such metrics as glucose levels, heart rate, blood pressure, and blood oxygen levels."

Based on these definitions and research we conducted as part of the development of our remote patient monitoring software and connected patient device program, we came up with our own definition. The following is shared on our FAQs resource page: "RPM is the use of digital technologies to monitor and capture medical and other health data from patients and electronically transmit this information to healthcare providers for assessment and, when necessary, recommendations and instructions. RPM allows providers to continue tracking healthcare data for patients once they are discharged. It also encourages patients to take more control of their health." 

RPM vs. Telehealth

While the definition of RPM may seem fairly straightforward, there is some confusion about the concept, including how it differs from telehealth. Distinguishing between remote patient monitoring and telehealth is important for several reasons, including coding and billing purposes. 

Let's first tackle this question: "How is remote patient monitoring different from telehealth?" A Medicaid resource states, "Telehealth includes such technologies as telephones, facsimile machines, electronic mail systems, and remote patient monitoring devices, which are used to collect and transmit patient data for monitoring and interpretation. While they do not meet the Medicaid definition of telemedicine, they are often considered under the broad umbrella of telehealth services." 

An article in Pharmacy & Therapeutics notes that "traditionally, telehealth delivery is segmented into four modalities: real-time, store-and-forward, remote patient monitoring (RPM), and mobile health (mHealth)." The publication defines telehealth as "… the remote delivery of health care to a patient through technology…" and states that the RPM modality "… collects patient information electronically and transmits it to a provider at another location to allow tracking and monitoring of that patient."

In our FAQs, we distinguish between the terms by writing, "RPM is the use of a device for interaction between providers and patients outside of the provider’s organization. Telehealth is the use of electronic information and telecommunications technologies to support long-distance clinical care, patient and professional health-related education, public health, and health administration."

We can further appreciate the difference between RPM and telehealth by briefly reviewing Medicare coding and billing guidelines. As of April 2020, there are four CPT codes covering RPM: 99453, 99454, 99457, and 99458. None of these codes are included in the lengthy list of 2019 calendar year Medicare telehealth services codes, which cover everything from individual and group kidney disease education services; psychiatric diagnostic interview exams; advance care planning; smoking cessation services; psychoanalysis; and the annual wellness visit (AWV). 

Providers delivering remote patient monitoring services will want to ensure they use the proper RPM CPT codes when submitting claims. (Note: If you are interested in learning more about coding and billing for remote patient monitoring, download our free RPM Billing Guide).

Remote Patient Monitoring vs. Patient Monitoring

One final point about the RPM definition: Remote patient monitoring is sometimes confused with patient monitoring. While the concepts do overlap in some regards, their difference is important.

The National Cybersecurity Center of Excellence (NCCoE), part of the National Institute of Standards and Technology, does a nice job of simplifying RPM vs. patient monitoring when it states the following: "Traditionally, patient monitoring systems have been deployed in healthcare facilities, in controlled environments. Remote patient monitoring (RPM), however, is different in that monitoring equipment is deployed in the patient's home. These new capabilities, which can involve third-party platform providers utilizing video conferencing capabilities, and leveraging cloud and internet technologies coupled with RPM devices, are used to treat numerous conditions, such as patients battling chronic illness or requiring post-operative monitoring."

Now that you have a clear grasp of what remote patient monitoring is, it’s easy to see why the increased adoption of RPM is on the rise during this time. Let us guide you through a demo of how Prevounce can streamline your process for providing equipment and software that seamlessly integrates remote patient monitoring into your existing practice.

For more information on remote patient monitoring, see this comprehensive guide.

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