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Despite the rise in telehealth during the pandemic, remote patient monitoring lags

MGMA Stat - June 16, 2022

Patient Access

Electronic Health Records

Patient Care Technology

Christian Green MA
The Medical Group Management Association’s most recent MGMA Stat poll asked healthcare leaders, “Does your practice offer remote patient monitoring?” The majority (75%) said “no,” while 25% said “yes.”
 


The poll was conducted June 14, 2022, with 586 applicable responses. The results reflect a slight increase compared to  MGMA Stat polls from the past two years — an April 20, 2021, poll, in which 22% of respondents said their practice offers remote patient monitoring (RPM), a slight increase from a Sept. 15, 2020, poll, in which 21% said the same.
 
As with the 2020 poll, medical practice leaders responding to this poll said they most often use RPM to measure, monitor and track:
  • Blood pressure
  • Heart activity
  • Diabetes.
 
For those respondents who answered “no,” 23% said they are considering adding RPM services in the next year.
 

RPM to help manage chronic conditions

The increased adoption of telehealth has been well documented in MGMA Stat polls during the past two years. After the first few months of the pandemic, a June 16, 2020, poll revealed that 60% of practices said that the expansion of telehealth services was the top initiative that helped them the most during the COVID-19 pandemic. Sixteen months later, an Oct. 19, 2021, poll reported that 70% of practices said that patient demand for telehealth would either stay the same or increase in 2022.
 
Despite the broad adoption of telehealth, RPM is one component of telehealth that has lagged. “I think that RPM is becoming more popular, but I wouldn’t say that it is mainstream yet. There are still lots of places not using this type of technology,” said Katie Nunn, MBA, CMPE, MGMA Consulting, who, during the early months of the pandemic, outlined the benefits, components, and billing and coding requirements for practices in her article, “Remote patient monitoring: Building a new outpatient revenue stream.”
 
Although the use of telehealth and RPM don’t necessarily go hand in hand, RPM can help manage chronic conditions and lessen the burden on the healthcare system by keeping some chronic condition patients at home, where they can be monitored and treated, saving money and reducing their exposure to hospital-acquired infections.
 
This has been confirmed in recent surveys. For example, in a Rhythm Management Group report earlier this year, nearly two-thirds of respondents said that RPM improved patient outcomes in their practice, 43% said it resulted in fewer emergency department visits, and 73% said it improved patient satisfaction.1
 
The Rhythm Management Group report also indicated that RPM has gained more traction in medical practices, with 57% of them currently using RPM; though only 37% are independent practices.2 However, the report did not specify the types of medical practices surveyed.
 
Further, according to a report by Insider Intelligence, RPM utilization increased 35.5% from 2020 to 2021. By 2025, the author projects 70.6 million RPM users in the United States, up from 29.1 million in 2020.3
 
This speaks to the number of patients with chronic conditions who can benefit from RPM. As reported by the American Medical Association, chronic conditions are responsible for up to 75% of deaths in the United States.4 Further, about one in three adults globally experiences more than one chronic condition.5
 
Chronic conditions were exacerbated during the pandemic, because patients delayed or deferred care. In fact, according to a 2021 report by the Urban Institute, adults with two or more chronic conditions were more than twice as likely as adults with no chronic conditions to report that their care needs were not met (16.7% versus 7.6%).6
 
Combine this with the fact that many providers lacked access to the proper remote patient monitoring tools for their patients, and you have “what providers are now calling ‘health debt,’ an accumulated impact of changes in health behaviors as a result of the pandemic,” Wagaas Al-Siddiq, PhD, chairman, CEO, and founder, Biotricity, recently told Healthcare IT News.7
 
As noted by Al-Siddiq, telehealth did not provide the level of care chronic condition patients require. “They need to be tracked very closely and frequently to keep their condition from worsening. If a patient is skipping appointments and check-ins, their condition could easily reach a point where they will suddenly need to visit the hospital or ER,”8 he said.
 
The advantage of real-time monitoring is that providers can be alerted to an issue and decide on a plan of treatment, rather than having to admit a patient to the hospital, which also eases the burden on providers.
 
As Nunn added, other benefits include closer contact with patients and increased data capture, which can ultimately lead to better and timelier preventive care. However, there are still barriers that exist for practices. “I think that for most providers, they are so overwhelmed with routine patient care that it is hard to get them to add one more thing to the visit, like explaining RPM,” said Nunn.
 
Notes:
1. “Poised for Flight: Remote Physiologic Monitoring Has Arrived.” Rhythm Management Group, March 31, 2022. Available from: prn.to/3b0ObI7.
2. Ibid.
3. Hollander R. “U.S. Remote Patient Monitoring Forecast.” Insider Intelligence, Nov. 5, 2021. Available from: bit.ly/3Qcld8k.
4. “Why innovation is needed to better manage chronic disease.” American Medical Association. Dec. 23, 2019. Available from: bit.ly/3txNuN0.
5. Hajat C, Stein E. “The global burden of multiple chronic conditions: A narrative review.” Prev Med Rep. 2018 Dec; 12: 284–293. Available from: bit.ly/3OeAd3O.
6. Gonzalez D, Karpman M, Haley JM. “Coronavirus Concerns Led More Than 1 in 10 Nonelderly Adults to Delay or Forgo Health Care in Spring 2021.” Urban Institute, Aug. 18, 2021. Available from: urbn.is/3NBXtbS.
7. Siwicki B. “How Remote Patient Monitoring Is Moving into the Mainstream.” Healthcare IT News, March 8, 2022. Available from: bit.ly/3MxrLLt.
8. Ibid.
 
JOIN MGMA STAT 
Our ability at MGMA to provide great resources, education and advocacy depends on a strong feedback loop with healthcare leaders. To be part of this effort, sign up for MGMA Stat and make your voice heard in our weekly polls. Sign up by texting “STAT” to 33550 or visit mgma.com/stat. Polls will be sent to your phone via text message. 
 
Do you have any best practices or success stories to share on this topic? Please let us know by emailing us at connection@mgma.com.  
 
Additional resources 

About the Author

Christian Green
Christian Green MA
MGMA Writer/Editor MGMA

cgreen@mgma.com

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