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RPM 101: What is remote patient monitoring?

Implementing a remote patient monitoring (RPM) program often provides demonstrated clinical and financial impacts. In this webinar, presented by Remetric Health, Rebecca Russell explains the core components of a remote patient monitoring program and helps you differentiate between RPM and Telehealth.

Learning objectives:

  • Differentiate between remote patient monitoring and telehealth
  • Understand the components of an RPM program and how to successfully implement one
  • Learn about reimbursements for RPM

Presented by:

  • Rebecca Russell, director of program management, RemetricHealth

Key topics:

  • Minute 2:00 — Intro
  • Minute 3:50 — Learning objectives
  • Minute 4:55 — What's driving remote patient monitoring (RPM)?
  • Minute 6:30 — Differences between RPM and telehealth
  • Minute 9:00 — Demonstrated clinical impact & benefits
  • Minute 14:30 —  Reimbursement
  • Minute 20:30 —  RPM options
  • Minute 28:00 —  Implementing an RPM program
  • Minute 46:00 —  Q&A 

As the population ages, healthcare providers must manage a growing number of patients with multiple chronic conditions, requiring both time and resources. Meanwhile, already-high healthcare costs continue to rise.

Fortunately, remote patient monitoring (RPM) systems can help. Hospitals, health systems, community health centers and physician groups are using RPM to realize improvements in numerous critical areas, including staff efficiency, patient satisfaction scores, hospital readmissions and overall patient outcomes.

In our June 15, 2022 webinar, Rebecca Russell, director of program management for RemetricHealth, discussed what you need to know about remote patient monitoring and how an RPM could be a great addition to your practice.

The difference between RPM and telehealth

You may have heard "remote patient monitoring" and "telehealth" used interchangeably, but that's a misconception. They're not the same.

Telehealth, or telemedicine, is an umbrella term that describes the provision of care from a distance or an interaction between a patient and provider facilitated by telecommunications technology.

By contrast, RPM entails using medical devices that patients use in their homes daily, such as glucometers and blood pressure monitors. The devices collect and submit electronically to an electronic health record (EHR) or secure patient portal, so a nurse or other healthcare professional can review the data.

"It provides ongoing measurements that patients are taking on a daily basis, so you're able to see trends," says Russell.

Components of an RPM program

There are three necessary components for an RPM program: medical devices, software and clinical staff.

1 | Medical devices. You can offer patients a device with a Bluetooth connection or a device with a cellular connection for uploading their data. According to Russell, Bluetooth options are typically the best choice when possible. Still, devices that submit data through a cellular connection are a good option for patients who don't use a smartphone or tablet.

2 | Software. Medical devices can upload data to a provider portal or EHR, which gives great access to the nurse or other healthcare professional who monitors the data. Some programs also include a patient app, so the devices can upload data to the app, giving the patient a chance to view and track their data.

3 | Staff. You can designate a member of your practice to oversee the program, including the setup of new devices and the daily data monitoring. Or you can opt for an outside partner to manage the program, which reduces or eliminates the burden on your already-busy staff. "Having that external help can be valuable to get your program off the ground and help that program grow," says Russell.

Understanding the benefits of remote patient monitoring services

Your patients are undoubtedly your priority, and there's no question that RPM can help you manage their care and support better outcomes, especially if they have chronic health conditions that require careful monitoring.

"It absolutely improves quality measure and increases patient engagement and satisfaction," says Russell.

But your patients aren't the only ones who should benefit from a well-run RPM program. Your practice's financial performance can also benefit. Over the past few years, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has expanded the Medicare reimbursement opportunities for RPM, giving practices a financial incentive for introducing patients to devices that help monitor their health.

"Your reimbursements should always exceed the cost of the program," says Russell. "If they don't, managing a program doesn't make good financial sense. It might make good clinical sense, but obviously, it needs to make sense financially as well."

How to implement a successful remote patient monitoring program

If you establish a remote patient monitoring program for your practice, you want to give the program its best chance for success. These steps can help:

  • Define the need. Consider these questions when beginning the implementation process: What problem are you trying to solve? Where would an RPM program be most valuable? Your practice may be attempting to better manage patients with chronic conditions, or you may be striving to improve your patient satisfaction scores. You may be working to improve access to care among patients who live in rural areas, or you may be trying to generate a new revenue stream. Whatever your goal, use that to shape your program
  • Select the appropriate patients. According to CMS, any patient with at least one chronic medical condition or acute disorder is suitable for remote monitoring. You also want to ensure your patients are fully on board with the program before enrolling them. "If you don't have patient compliance, you really don't have a program," notes Russell
  • Establish the clinical care workflow. You can customize the workflow to meet your practice's needs. But typically, a clinical care workflow will start with patient enrollment and device training. Once the patients begin using their devices, nurses monitor the inflow of data, interacting with patients when necessary. At the end of the month, your practice will receive a report documenting the time spent on each patient. You can then incorporate that information into your submissions for reimbursement
  • Choose an RPM partner. Your staff may not have the time to take on any additional tasks. Having an external partner to implement and manage the program can ensure success without further taxing your staff. A few caveats: make sure the company is FDA-compliant, and make sure the payment model benefits your practice. "After you receive the reimbursements and after you pay for all the costs of the program – including the cost of clinical staff to help you implement and manage that program – you should still have at least $1,000 per patient per year," says Russell

Bridge care between visits with remote patient monitoring. See our RPM solutions >

Be prepared for challenges

Even the best RPM programs can encounter some challenges along the way. For example, you may find it challenging to enroll new patients, or you might have patients who want to participate but live in an area without broadband access and don't have a smartphone.

Alternatively, you may choose to start your program with an internal staff member at the helm, only to realize that you need to seek an external partner to take the program to the next level.

As long as you acknowledge and address any challenges that may arise, you should be able to regroup or create a solution that will help your program grow and flourish. 

This webinar originally aired on June 15, 2022

© 2022 McKesson Medical-Surgical Inc.