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Beyond Bottom Lines: RPM’s True Promise

  • April 11, 2016|
  • 2 years ago

by Tom Foley

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Director, Global Health Solution Strategy

Remote patient monitoring (RPM) has been in the marketplace for at least 15 years, but its promise has not yet been realized. It includes monitoring patients remotely, using devices that help observe patients’ conditions and forwarding data securely to prescribed remote monitoring organizations. RPM services are often bundled with the capability to share test results, patient education materials, questions, concerns, and other items over video chat and text. While growth within this market has recently been driven by health reform and the penalties surrounding hospital readmission—which amount to $25 billion or more each year—the momentum toward RPM is largely due to the fact that the industry is shifting to value-based care coordination models.

Although not as involved as telehealth, remote patient monitoring can be paired with telehealth to create an end-to-end solution that encompasses needs from data collection to patient engagement, outside of traditional care settings. The application of remote patient monitoring ranges from 30-day post discharge, which is helpful for preventing readmission and monitoring day-to-day changes, to ongoing long-term chronic or end-of-life conditions. For some patients, RPM can be the difference between receiving care at a hospital and at home, where the patient is most comfortable and able to be surrounded by family and friends.

Right now, in the eyes of many organizations, RPM is simply an avenue to avoid costs—specifically expensive readmissions. Plus, since the the new Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MARCA) came to fruition, EPM has assisted with its focus on creating an effective value-based care model.

For RPM to reach its maximum potential, the health industry will have to look beyond cost-saving potential to see the possibilities of RPM as a standard component of care. RPM is not yet a standard care offering, even in the states that authorize some form of telehealth, according to Frost & Sullivan’s recent report, “US Remote Patient Monitoring Market: Is it Finally Ready to Make a Difference?”

What’s important for the industry to consider is that opposite from cutting costs, RPM can establish a new revenue stream for organizations as they navigate uncharted territory. Unlike clinical care models, RPM can create cash flow that allows health organizations to stay afloat as they work to realize other revenue streams that will soon require validation.

The Frost & Sullivan report details where exactly RPM has been implemented so far. According to its research, the majority of RPM’s revenues have come from hospital systems’ home care agencies and hospital-focused home care programs, such as the VA telemedicine program.

Despite that skew, the cost aspect has piqued interest levels. Scott Edelstein, a partner at Jones Day, told the HealthWell Foundation that “Historically, the adoption of remote monitoring technology has been stymied by the lack of financial incentives to use the technology. Recent CMS initiatives, such as the Hospital Readmissions Reduction Program and new reimbursement codes for remote chronic care management, are fueling a renewed interest in this technology. This should create significant opportunities to increase access to, and quality of, care while lowering costs.”

While the promise might seem far-fetched to some, there are already case studies capable of proving the potential. For instance, Broad Axe Care Coordination and University of Virginia Health System (UVA)’s partnership aims to create a comprehensive platform using services and technology, with the ultimate goal of reducing readmissions for conditions associated with Medicare penalties such as heart attack, heart failure, pneumonia, and COPD.

In fact, the program’s success—paired with a looming list of expanded penalties from Medicare—has provided enough encouragement for Broad Axe to expand services at UVA, meaning they are now monitoring patients after total joint replacements as well. The results have been reassuring, with UVA citing a “dramatic decrease in joint readmission rates” as well as a readiness for a “prime time remote monitoring and care coordination program that can be put into place at hospitals across the country.” As to the HealthWell Foundation notes:

“UVA and Broad Axe work together to look closely at those patients who are readmitted to see if the program can be further optimized. For example, C3 can track not only readmission, but when patients have follow-up visits. The system can also help to ascertain whether patients are following their medication instructions. This provides important feedback to see what areas of opportunity are most important for the health system to target to improve patient care. Broad Axe executives are pleased with readmission rate performance between 25 and 45 percent below historical benchmarks, depending on the condition and payer population, and the associated penalty savings for the hospital.”

Although the UVA and Broad Axe partnership is only one example of RPM’s promise, as a success story, it’s pretty compelling. Better patient outcomes due to reduced readmissions and lowered costs all around—that’s a win-win for both sides. But RPM isn’t the whole equation, just a valuable piece. When paired with other innovative strategies, such as telehealth, organizations can implement RPM in a way that strengthens offerings and brings potential for new revenue—while conveniently cutting costs at the same time.

Reference Articles:

1.“Lowering Hospital Readmissions through Remote Patient Monitoring of Post-Acute Patients” HealthWell Foundation. February 26, 2015.
2. “US Remote Patient Monitoring Market: Is It Finally Ready to Make a Difference?” Frost & Sullivan. November 24, 2015.
3. “MACRA: New Opportunities for Medicare Providers Through Innovative Payment Systems (Updated)” Health Affairs Blog. September 28, 2015.