2019 Healthcare Trend: Remote Patient Monitoring (Why “Virtual Care” Solutions Are on the Rise)

Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM) or “virtual care” is a hot topic these days among healthcare leaders. Once considered theoretical more than practical, RPM now dominates the landscape thanks to technological advances, improved application and CMS incentives. It’s no longer a luxury but a necessity for many hospitals, clinical practices and health plans.

Here are three major reasons RPM is now at the forefront of care delivery:

Improved Technology, Logistics & Patient Adoption –

In short, the technology and practical application of RPM has caught-up with the theoretical benefits. There was a time when the idea of virtually monitoring blood pressure sounded nice, but the logistics didn’t make sense. How could patient compliance be ensured? What about the costly technology?

Thanks to advances such as wearable devices and even the proliferation of mass health technology through the Apple Watch, technology access and compliance is no longer an issue. These devices provide accurate, real-time data. And, patients will actually use them, since they are available, convenient and comfortable.

The general adoption of smartphone technology has also allowed RPM to jump leaps and bounds. Health plans and care providers have even developed their own phone applications that improve virtual communication via secure, HIPAA-compliant video conferencing.

Virtual Visits –

When discussing RPM and “Telehealth,” it’s important to distinguish between the remote monitoring of health data and virtual visits. RPM is the former and focuses on keeping tight compliance of blood pressure, blood sugar and other health readings in order to manage chronic disease. Virtual visits, on the other hand, provide more frequent/reliable clinician-patient interaction (via video conference, etc.) for early interventions and disease management.

Virtual visits are proving great tools to supplement care for rural patients and those in underserved communities. In addition, a recent survey suggests that more than 70% of patients actually prefer virtual visits to in-person meetings. However, there are also financial incentives for care providers that implement the technology.

CMS will begin reimbursing home health agencies for virtual care implementation and visits under new PDGM guidelines. Physicians are already being reimbursed for virtual visits, and health plans have implemented virtual care solutions for cost-savings under capitation reimbursement.

Real-Time Health Data Monitoring –

RPM generally falls under the category of health data monitoring more so than virtual visits and employs technology that regularly communicates a patient’s health data in real time. It’s used in the management of chronic diseases that require strict compliance in blood pressure, blood glucose and other vital readings.

This technology helps to improve outcomes for hypertensive patients, diabetics and those suffering from conditions like CHF and COPD. It also helps doctors when prescribing medications and during the creation of care plans for the chronically ill. Practices are reimbursed by CMS for a “visit” when a nurse or clinician spends at least 20 minutes evaluating a patient’s remote health data.

RPM and virtual care solutions are here to stay and will continue to grow as a care delivery supplement in the years to come. The demographic and economic landscape requires that hospitals, physicians and health plans adopt the technology with urgency. While the changes can be scary to some, most companies will find that the benefits ultimately improve patient outcomes while also lowering costs and generating revenue.

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