Technology can reduce health care costs, improve outcomes, improve practice efficiency
Remote patient monitoring (RPM) outcomes have been the subject of extensive research. The ability to monitor patients’ blood pressure, weight, or heart data continuously allows physicians to catch risky conditions before they get worse or become critical. This intervention helps reduce clinical workload, hospital visits, and resulting health care costs.
While these benefits are clear for health care professionals, some patients are resistant, especially when they learn a copay will be required. Yet the short- and long-term health benefits of RPM for patients far outweigh any out-of-pocket costs.
The current state of RPM use
The COVID-19 pandemic rapidly increased the development and use of RPM technologies to provide ongoing care for patients in lockdown. RPM use has continued to grow with the increasing demand for better patient care and the rising cost of traditional health care. According to Markets and Markets Research, the global RPM systems industry is projected to be worth over $1.7 billion by 2027, up nearly 128% from its current value.
RPM applications range widely and include the detection of critical health events through sensors for chronic conditions such as diabetes or heart failure, telehealth education and support, fall-detection monitoring, mental health systems for patients who require medication-adherence monitoring, and more. Artificial intelligence and machine learning are expected to drive continued growth in the industry, spanning uses from clinical decision support systems aimed at diagnostic or predictive prognostic purposes to imaging interpretation and tools that will improve patient experience and education.
Measuring ROI for patients
RPM offers patients a clear return on investment (ROI) over time, with an estimated range of $1,390 to upward of $7,000 per individual depending on health care needs. This extends beyond initial health care savings, including money associated with transportation, time, and energy to visit their doctors; prescription, laboratory, and imaging costs; and hard and soft expenses if a hospital stay or emergency department visit is required.
However, the return on RPM isn’t limited to financial measurements. It also improves health outcomes, eliminates communication barriers, facilitates faster access to providers, reduces hospital readmissions, shortens hospital stays, and enhances patient education.
RPM technologies present a particular benefit for patients with chronic conditions to receive the care they need without constant visits to their physician’s physical practice. Patients with chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease often require ongoing monitoring and management. RPM can help these patients better manage their conditions by providing regular monitoring, alerts, and support.
According to a 2021 study in the American Journal of Managed Care, patients with chronic conditions accounted for 65% of outpatient visits, and nearly half of Americans had at least one chronic condition. The study also reported that patients with chronic conditions had more frequent outpatient visits, with an average of 6.8 visits per year compared to 4.2 visits per year for patients without chronic conditions. These patients may require more time and resources from health care providers, including longer appointments and more frequent follow-up care.
RPM can reduce the burden on patients and doctors by providing regular monitoring and support outside of traditional office visits. According to a study evaluating the cost-effectiveness of an RPM program that included lifestyle education software for Type 2 diabetes, the telemonitoring group trended to a 21% cost decrease for the patient over one and two years of follow-up.
Measuring ROI for providers and health care organizations
A health care practice’s potential revenue is calculated by the total number of eligible patients multiplied by monthly billable codes multiplied by the reimbursement rate. These factors are impacted by location, patient measurement compliance, and how much time is spent by the care team reviewing measurements and providing virtual care for patients. It’s common for the size of patient panels to range from 1,800 to 2,000 with an average of 10% being Medicare patients and more than two-thirds of those patients having at least one chronic condition.
Considering these metrics, with an average annual revenue per chronic condition of approximately $100, a practice can expect to make between $144,000 and $160,000 per physician through remote monitoring of their chronically ill Medicare patients.
The ROI doesn’t stop at revenue. RPM also reduces health care costs, by helping physicians detect changes in a patient's condition early. This enables providers to intervene before a hospital admission is necessary, or can help detect and manage acute conditions before they require emergency care.
Reducing hospital readmissions and emergency department visits helps patients and medical facilities lower the costs associated with hospital stays and treatments. Also, it can assist patients with managing their conditions, decreasing the need for expensive procedures or treatments later on.
RPM reduces operational costs including staff workload and administrative costs, improves efficiency and patient engagement, and enhances resource allocation. It can help automate some tasks that would otherwise require staff time and effort. This improves efficiency and reduces costs associated with manual processes while decreasing the number of tasks for providers and support staff, allowing them to focus on other priorities and improve patient experiences.
It's vital to note that improved outreach to certain patient populations, including patients with chronic conditions, elderly patients, and patients in remote areas, resulted in improved ROI for both patients and their health care providers. By reducing the need for travel and other associated costs, typically health care providers expand their patient network to those who need it most.
A long-term win-win
It’s projected that by 2024, 30 million patients in the U.S. will be using RPM tools to help manage their health. Health care organizations can take advantage of this growth by making targeted improvements to their strategies for patient care and organizational growth. Increased access to data will enable medical professionals to make better decisions and define better courses of treatments for patients. This will lead to improved patient outcomes and enhanced patient satisfaction, resulting in a long-term win-win for health care providers and their patients alike.
Rafaël Tarantini is a vice president of finance at Rhythm Management Group and has more than 10 years’ experience in various applications of remote monitoring in the United States and abroad.