Each year, $3.8 trillion is spent on healthcare services, with 90% of the cost attributable to the care of chronic conditions1. Of the national health expenditure, 21% or $799.4 billion was spent by Medicare alone2. This number is only anticipated to grow as “baby boomers” age and increase Medicare enrollment to more than 73 million individuals by 20303. The increase in a senior population creates more than just budgetary challenges, it will drastically increase the demand for specialized services that treat and manage chronic conditions that affect nearly 80% of older adults4.
However, as the public health crisis has demonstrated, physicians and patients need alternatives to in-office visits that may pose health risks. In April 2020, 25% of patients with chronic conditions expressed fears of going into a doctor’s office or hospital5. This fear is understandable, as 73% of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 had a preexisting condition6, making it essential for patients with chronic conditions to appropriately mitigate the risk they have for contracting such an illness. COVID-19 has only accelerated existing trends, like telehealth and remote patient monitoring (RPM), to deliver quality, effective care to a patient in the comfort and safety of their home.
Even before the public health crisis, Medicare made steps forward when they announced reimbursement for RPM in January 20196. This allowed physicians to receive reimbursement for remotely reviewing a patient’s biometric data. It was further expanded in January 2020, allowing physicians to bill Medicare for additional time spent reviewing data and allowing more diverse practice staff to participate. Additionally, the Quality Payment Program and Hospital Readmission Reduction Program provide further incentives for physicians to improve patient outcomes through RPM7. RPM has been successful in both lowering emergency room visits and readmission rates by up to 92% and 40%, respectively6.
Rather than collecting health data from patients at infrequent office visits, RPM works by providing patients with the tools to measure data such as blood pressure, heart rate, blood oxygen, or glucose levels at home. The data is then recorded and shared with their healthcare providers, who can remotely monitor patient status. This enables physicians to assess the health of their patients more frequently and before something goes wrong. Rather than reactively treating a patient, RPM allows physicians to take a preventive health approach to reduce emergency room visits, readmissions, and health complications. Especially when it comes to patients with high-risk and chronic conditions, deterioration in their health can be detected far sooner than if they had waited for significant symptoms to appear or an in-office visit to alert the doctor of any changes in their health. Patients benefit from improved outcomes, while physicians can deliver better care, and payers are faced with reduced costs.
Many RPM devices currently available integrate with sophisticated mobile apps that share data in near real-time or sync with apps like Apple Health so that both patients and physicians can easily view the data. By making patients an active part of the healthcare process, they become more engaged and understand what is needed to improve their chronic conditions. RPM facilitates collaboration between healthcare providers and patients to avoid preventable deterioration. By avoiding hospitalizations and managing symptoms of their chronic conditions, patients are provided with a higher quality of life.