Remote patient monitoring is a relatively new concept and you’ve got questions. So, we created an all-in-one overview that answers all of your questions about telehealth and Remote Patient Monitoring, and how to implement it in your clinic or practice.
Telehealth & Remote Patient Monitoring - A Simple Breakdown
Telehealth is a complicated industry under the umbrella of the most complicated industry—healthcare.
Countless providers, platforms, and features saturate the market for telehealth services. It can be difficult to decide where to start with implementing a telehealth program. Buzzwords, high-tech jargon, and non-transparent service propositions are bombarding physicians and clinicians.
Because of this, implementing a remote health program can seem overwhelming and even unnecessary. Right now, it might seem like a headache, but we’d like to take the fear and uncertainty out of this conversation.
We want to give anyone considering remote patient monitoring and telehealth for their practice a realistic breakdown of what to expect.
This guide will take the confusion out of telehealth terms, services, and application potential related to telehealth. It will provide a transparent, comprehensive breakdown of what you need to understand to successfully implement a Telehealth program at any clinic or practice, no matter the size.
From devices, billing codes, and technology, to long-term scalability and program management, we’ve covered everything you need to know about Telehealth deployment.
We will explain why telehealth is important for the future of care provision, how to implement a telehealth program at your clinic, and steps to take in choosing the right service provider to achieve success with telehealth and remote patient monitoring.
What is Telehealth & Remote Patient Monitoring? How Are They Connected?
First, let’s define telehealth as the collection of patient metrics, including blood pressure, heart rate, weight, and blood glucose, from the patient’s home, or any location that is remote to a physical clinic.
Remote monitoring services allow patients to automatically report readings and manage their conditions in more consistent, easier ways.
The remote patient monitoring devices enable patients to enter health readings easily from the comfort of their homes, and then the device transmits this data to teams of clinical professionals who assess them on a constant basis.
Telehealth services use remote patient monitoring programs and technology to collect and interpret patient health information, data, and readings. You can’t really have one without the other. This allows telehealth programs to act as effective extensions of clinics and practices in ways that keep patients safer and doctors more in control.
Telehealth increases data collection to levels otherwise unattainable and automates reports and health alerts, creating added value for both patients and providers. By automating at-home health readings, and providing 24/7 monitoring of recorded levels, Telehealth helps patients actively avoid emergencies by recognizing issues before they occur.
These programs also:
build capacity for more robust preventative medical interventions by physicians
reduce the need for compulsory in-clinic visits
reduce the frequency of trips to the emergency room
extend clinical activities in ways that have been proven to increase daily adherence to physician-created health plans
improve risk scoring for patients.
Have you heard of any other program that does all these things? Probably not.
Telehealth & Remote Patient Monitoring Potential
Telehealth holds enormous potential to improve the quality of care and it holds the largest potential for additional revenue generation than any other telehealth service model. Studies show the positive impacts telehealth can have on both revenue-generating potential for clinics, as well as overall health outcomes—hard data to ignore.
Regarding revenue, the average clinic employing Telehealth saw a 15-25% increase in appointment volume. Most saw 100% more revenue per patient per year when employing remote monitoring, with large increases in profit margins.
The potential for patient health is also enormous, with countless conditions both chronic and temporary seeing measurable improvements in patient health outcomes and health manageability through remote patient monitoring.
Also, telehealth programs provide physicians with larger volumes of actionable health data which empowers both providers and their patients to make better informed, faster decisions based on a patient’s health state and current readings.
For example, diabetes patients in telehealth programs saw a 15-point blood sugar reduction at 30 days on average and a 32-point blood sugar reduction at 12 months.
These and many other studies demonstrate how Telehealth programs increase the quality of life for the patient and the provider, in addition to increasing clinic revenue opportunities.
Examples of Telehealth & Remote Patient Monitoring Application
Remote patient monitoring has a lot of hype around it. So, in this section, we will dive into condition-specific examples of these positive health outcomes.
Diabetes Management with Telehealth
Recent studies support the benefits of telehealth for diabetic patients, with research showing that patients engaging in remote monitoring:
saw a significant reduction in their blood pressure
were better able to maintain optimal blood glucose levels - improving the overall quality of life
We back this up by providing a supply of remote patient monitoring devices that meet both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes management needs, including a 4G LTE-connected glucometer that sends data directly from patients to doctors in real-time.
These devices eliminate the need to write down readings and remove the necessity of tracking levels manually.
Telehealth is removing the usual barriers faced by diabetic patients in ways that have real-world benefits for their health and quality of care. This technology is providing these patients the tools that allow them to easily and safely manage their daily health with this disease.
The average diabetic patient in the United States spends over $16,000 per year managing their disease. To reduce the financial and physical burden that comes with diabetes monitoring, we supply no-cost diabetic consumables to patients using their telehealth platform.
This results in patients taking more readings, and doctors having more awareness and control of their patient’s ongoing medical care, something that they often live without.
Telehealth effectively reduces the risk of complications and provides a means of immediate intervention to avoid dangerous irregularities, revolutionizing the ways these patients can safely navigate their prenatal care.
The effectiveness of telehealth for gestational diabetes patients is measurable, with studies showing the enormous benefits of adopting Telehealth systems in the treatment of GDM, gestational diabetes mellitus, a carbohydrate intolerance of variable severity is typically first diagnosed during pregnancy and stems from an insulin resistance that appears after the second and third trimesters.
Due to the severity of GDM on mothers and newborns, the success of telehealth in managing this disease is an incredible example of progress in what has previously been a difficult and risky illness to treat.
While the health outcomes of telehealth for gestational diabetes are clearly beneficial, the value telehealth provides to patients themselves also includes having control and confidence in their pregnancy—a sense of security to these patients, knowing that their health is being consistently monitored to reduce the risk for themselves and their newborns.
Hypertension & Remote Patient Monitoring
Many studies indicate the failings of traditional routine monitoring for hypertension patients. This is because many patients simply do not adhere to routine monitoring, whether from “inconvenience”, or inconsistency in reporting irregularities to their doctors. The invisible nature of the symptoms of hypertension, paired with unreported issues in pressure levels, leads to visits to urgent care, and sometimes life-threatening situations.
Telehealth corrects these issues by providing both convenience and consistency in monitoring processes for patients with high blood pressure. Remote patient monitoring devices are accessible to patients, and allow for easier, more consistent data collection and alerting.
These devices automatically alert both patients and doctors when blood pressure reaches critical levels, automating the transmission of readings in ways that allow for immediate medical intervention. This leads to:
Increased adherence to home monitoring and care plans
Reduced the risk for patients with hypertension overall
Telehealth is shifting the way we treat hypertension that keeps both the doctor and patient in control of successful management. And this technology can also be used to support hypotensive patients.
Weight Management Through Telehealth Services
Weight issues are another area that is being transformed through the use of telehealth technologies. Remote patient monitoring weight management solutions are showing enormously promising results for the obesity epidemic in the U.S.
While lifestyle modification is the most effective means of successfully managing weight gain and weight loss, remote patient monitoring technology is leading the way in ensuring compliance with those modifications and providing personal action plans that are truly effective.
Telehealth provides safer, more consistent methods of monitoring weight and other critical vitals associated with weight issues, which puts patients in better positions to lose or gain safely, and in ways that don’t obscure other important health information.
Monitor Asthma with the Help of Telehealth
Asthma is a chronic condition that naturally lends itself to remote treatment. Remote patient monitoring provides preventative, real-time monitoring capacities.
Telehealth technologies such as e-diaries, wearable devices, and digital inhalers are just some of the many ways remote care is contributing to the easier, at-a-distance management of asthmatic conditions, reducing the amount of in-person visits.
These technologies bring patients the care they need while reducing anxiety and inconvenience for these patients, enabling them to take control of their condition. Many studies support the use of telehealth technologies in treating asthma, with results including cost reduction and patient empowerment being consistently observed throughout trials.
In addition to asthma, telemedicine has created new capacities for those living in remote areas and urban environments with higher allergenic risks. Telehealth allows them to receive regular, specialized care that is otherwise inaccessible.
While telehealth can’t completely replace in-clinic care for these patients, it directly improves the health and lives of patients living with the condition.
Telehealth and Remote Patient Monitoring During a Pandemic
While Telehealth has clear and beneficial applications for common diseases and conditions, nowhere was telehealth’s potential better displayed than at the onset of COVID-19. The pandemic sanctioned rapid acceleration and acceptance of telehealth technologies in ways that will change healthcare forever.
The pandemic has shown the countless benefits including:
An increased capacity to treat and monitor patients at a distance
Reduced risk of exposure for physicians, clinical staff, and patients
Reduced in-person interactions that create greater safety and convenience for both patients and providers
Providers being able to provide patient care, even under quarantine
The eased burden of lost professional resources on hospitals, clinics, and private practices
The ability of patients who are at high risk to avoid disruptions in their care from the comfort of their home
Continuation of triage processes via video chat which helps reduce crowded emergency rooms and urgent care facilities, which further helps relieve healthcare personnel shortages
Additionally, chronic patients can be safely observed through telehealth devices and can be monitored for irregularities to avoid unnecessary medical interventions.
Telehealth has provided life-saving resources during a global pandemic, and its capacity far outreaches temporary crises. While COVID-19 necessitated a transition to remote care, its benefits, and improvements in health outcomes are clearly recognized. Now, telehealth has changed the way patients expect to receive care. More and more, patients are choosing telehealth for the convenience and consistency it provides in the management of their health.
Remote Patient Monitoring Technology
The conversation around telehealth services doesn’t explain how it actually works, like what the difference between Bluetooth and cellular is, why you need live interaction, and where data is stored. The following sections get into all crucial aspects of remote patient monitoring technology.
Cellular vs. Bluetooth Devices
There is a big debate in remote patient monitoring over Bluetooth vs. Cellular technology. That’s because Bluetooth is cheaper and seems more high-tech, but cellular devices are more effective in the long term. So, yes, cellular costs more, but they have much fewer troubleshooting issues.
Bluetooth devices require pairing (with cellular or wifi-connected devices) in order to send their data, and pairing itself requires frequent troubleshooting and software logins and passwords. All this added complexity creates failure points that are completely avoidable with built-in cellular chips that “just work.”
Reducing complexity leads to higher and longer patient engagement and compliance rates.
Cellular devices remove obstacles that can disrupt the effectiveness of telehealth programs and instead create simpler, more effective methods of monitoring patients.
Another feature of telehealth is Live Interaction, the access to healthcare professionals from remote locations, i.e. the patient’s home. This ensures disruption-free doctor-to-patient communication outside the traditional appointment, proving to enhance both the quality of care and safety for patients.
It allows ongoing communication between providers and patients, creating the capacity for patients to receive immediate feedback from their healthcare providers and ensuring they are keeping with care plans.
Live interaction also allows for increased availability in scheduling health appointments, by removing barriers created by physical consultations.
Storage + Forwarding
Something your facility will need to consider is Storage and Forwarding, the increased levels of patient-data gathering/assessment that gives patients an easier way to send important information to their providers.
With storage and forwarding features, patients can send pictures, videos, and results of diagnostic tests directly to their doctors. This helps accurately guide their patients which creates a personalized consultation and faster means of confirming non-abnormal results.
Electronic Medical Record System Integration
This one is crucial because this feature is the key to Telehealth programs that result in zero interruption, and no increase in administrative labor.
Without EMR integration, clinics must use two separate systems to provide remote patient monitoring services—EMR integration removes this need, leaving clinics with an easy-to-use platform designed to automatically work within the system they already know.
Every aspect of the platfor needs to fit into your remote patient monitoring workflow.
Patients are tracked by telemonitoring devices, which continuously collect biometric data such as blood pressure, weight, blood glucose, and other common readings. But the exact device used to track a patient varies based on their condition or care plan, but some features remain the same regardless of what is being treated.
Such as the use of cellular technology to alert both patients and clinics via call or text. This format of communication creates effective interventions that significantly reduce avoidable hospitalizations.
In addition to these alerts going to physicians, we use a third-party clinical team to triage patients and directly transfer this data to the overseeing healthcare practitioner.
How to Bill for Telehealth & Remote Patient Monitoring
One of the biggest concerns for clinics and practitioners using telehealth services is how to remain in compliance with medical billing codes with remote patient monitoring of clinical patients.
While many considering a move to virtual care may have anxieties surrounding coding compliance, the truth is that billing for Telehealth is actually quite simple, especially with the right provider. Here at Accuhealth, we have created platforms with automated features that make the billing process easy and remove the risk of coding errors.
The best platforms are designed to allow for auto-timed remote care provision. By doing so, these telehealth services provided meet the time-based billing and coding requirements of Telehealth.
It makes it nearly impossible to incorrectly bill service provision, as the attestation of time spent on care is completely automatic.
As a result, this system design reduces audit risk and makes implementing and scaling Telehealth programs a simple and secure process.
Anticipating Regulatory Billing Changes
Effective Telehealth program implementation isn’t just about seeing immediate success, it’s also about planning for the future regulatory processes that will affect your program.
Federal and state regulations are rapidly evolving to provide increased reimbursement for telemedicine models. Demand for trusted, full-service telehealth solutions is rapidly growing amongst clinics and practitioners.
You don’t want more work, you want a system that supports you and your practice.
When it comes to future-proofing your telehealth program, the biggest factor of success is choosing the right telehealth service provider. The best third-party providers will be designing their platforms to anticipate future changes to billing requirements. Then clinics aren’t left to pick up the pieces when regulatory requirements inevitably change.
Proposed Changes to the Medicare Physician Fee Schedule
Due to the global pandemic, specific regulations surrounding the billing of telehealth are being reassessed on federal, regulatory levels. These assessments seek to define which providers can bill for telehealth services, and what conditions must be met to properly maintain billing compliance.
While many of these changes are creating anxiety throughout the telehealth industry, services like Accuhealth are designed to meet these changes head-on—a much better strategy than waiting.
Accuhealth’s platform has been created to specifically harmonize with these potential shifts in how telehealth can be implemented, in ways that protect and maximize any clinic’s capacity to provide and scale these programs. You can find more information about the proposed changes HERE.
Future-Proofing Billing Processes
Be sure to make way for the future. For example, choose a provider who effectively future-proof their telehealth solutions and provides cost-free devices that are both accessible to patients of all ages, and that allow quality interactions between patients and providers. They also should ensure that their systems not only meet but exceed minimum requirements of quality and effectiveness in all capacities of program implementation.
Our remote patient monitoring platform was designed to support the ever-changing landscape of regulatory billing requirements for telehealth, making this major step easy and risk-free.
Coding Changes in Telehealth Billing
In addition to forward-thinking design, Telehealth providers who really ensure the success of their clients also provide transparency around changes in billing regulations, to keep their clients ahead of the curve when it comes to the evolution of Telehealth.
This allows clients implementing Telehealth programs to understand how the CMS will reimburse providers for new CPT codes, and how they can use these changes to open up new streams of potential revenue to help with the transition into value-based care.
Scaling Your Telemedicine Program
While the benefits of Telehealth and remote patient monitoring technology are clear, scalability is a critical concern that must be accounted for in any telemonitoring solution. Without the ability to scale a Telehealth program, the return on investment for implementation is simply not worth the effort and leads to wasted time and resources.
True scalability provides the long-term viability necessary for clinics to sustain remote care in permanent ways. With effective Telehealth deployment, clinics can see real, measurable returns on investment that provide value for both practitioners and patients.
For example, clinics using Accuhealth’s Telehealth services saw an average of 15% to 25% increase in appointment volume and enormously increased profit margins, receiving on average 100% more revenue per patient per year.
How do these providers create this success for clinics?
Their platforms allow for higher levels of engagement.
They create immediate, automated ways to scale clinical activities and revenue.
They help develop a remote patient monitoring workflow that fits into your own.
This is important, especially when considering that the top-performing clinics using remote monitoring programs typically have 80% or more of their eligible patients engaging in their telemonitoring services.
Providers need to design their services and platform to directly encourage this form of scalability and growth. From effective EMR integration to the simplicity in the navigability of their platform, it should cultivate easy implementation that is seamlessly expandable to hundreds, or even thousands of patients.
No matter what provider a clinic chooses, partnering with a company that supports growth and minimizes upfront implementation costs (and effort) is necessary to create Telehealth programs that provide increased ROI and long-term financial growth for your clinic.
Bringing it All Together
There are many factors to consider when planning a move to virtual care. From the application of remote patient monitoring programs to existing patients to the unique features required to meet your clinical needs, many elements come into play in deploying a system that really works for you.
The best providers of remote patient monitoring services and technology will work to take the complexity out of implementation and will create turn-key solutions that instantly fit into the format your organization uses.
Accuhealth has designed its services from both medical expertise and an extensive cybersecurity background, providing unique, simple, and secure solutions that stand out from other providers.
Accuhealth takes every possible precaution and measure to make telehealth implementation easier for physicians, by visualizing data for doctors in ways that are simple to consume and understand. You solve enough problems each day. You don’t need to add puzzles to your workload.
Telehealth and Remote Patient Monitoring doesn’t have to be complicated, but it does need to be comprehensive. Choosing a provider who will provide you with everything you need in one, full-service program is the best, easiest way to implement a solution that creates immediate results for both patients and providers. Find out more about how you can start your own Remote Patient Monitoring program today, with zero risk, and zero upfront costs.
David Medeiros is a Remote Patient Monitoring expert with 10 years of clinical, telehealth and home care experience, specifically in Remote Patient Monitoring. With his team, David has been able to develop RPM/Telehealth from the early pilot years, to the industry leading juggernaut that Accuhealth is today.