Remote patient monitoring experienced a sharp spike in usage thanks to a small number of providers, according to a September 2022 study from Health Affairs.
These primary care providers are leveraging remote patient monitoring technology in the hopes that it will improve patient health outcomes for those suffering from chronic conditions.
The enthusiasm of this relatively small pool of providers made a big impact: billing for remote patient monitoring increased over fourfold in the first year of the pandemic.
“Most of this growth was driven by a small number of primary care providers,” wrote Tang et al. “Among the patients of these providers with a high volume of remote patient monitoring, we did not observe substantial targeting of remote patient monitoring to people with greater disease burden or worse disease control.”
Researchers collected data on the ways providers are leveraging remote patient monitoring technology to inform policymakers as they make decisions about regulations and reimbursements for remote patient monitoring use.
This data came from the medical claims of over 20 million Medicare Advantage patients between January 1, 2019 and March 31, 2021.
The increase in remote patient monitoring was significant: in March 2020, there were only 4,355 Medicare claims related to the care modality. By March 2021, that number had increased to $19,762.
Even more encouraging, researchers found 51 percent of patients who used remote patient monitoring technology in 2020 were still leveraging the care management method six months later.
Despite the deluge of remote patient monitoring claims submitted to Medicare within this timeframe, interestingly, this spike was driven by only a few primary care providers. These nearly 20,000 claims were submitted by only 0.75 of all physicians.
This signals that there may be significant untapped potential for remote patient monitoring to benefit huge swaths of patients with chronic conditions if more providers get on board with the modality.
“Remote patient monitoring could be really great for folks for whom the status quo of chronic disease management isn’t working for them,” said Ariel Stern, study co-author and associate professor at Harvard Business School.
“So, one way to think about that: to the extent that’s true, you would want to see more targeting of people with poor diabetes control,” he added. “We’re not seeing that. What this study can’t tell us is whether remote patient monitoring might still be desirable for people that have good diabetes control if it’s allowing them to continue to manage their health, but see their doctor less frequently or if it’s somehow more patient-centered in reducing travel time or allowing for the earlier detection of future complications, but we’re not able to get that data in this project.”
There are quite a few underexplored areas still open to further research. However, this study is a key step in proving the potential for remote patient monitoring to help providers increase patient engagement among populations with chronic health conditions.
“Further research is needed to identify which patients benefit from remote patient monitoring, to inform evidence-based use and coverage decisions,” wrote authors in the study abstract. “In the meantime, payers and policy makers should closely monitor remote patient monitoring use and spending.”
Identifying the ways remote patient monitoring can improve disease management and patient health outcomes for patients with chronic conditions will be key for providers under the value-based care system.
In addition to remote patient monitoring, telehealth also has great potential to improve patient engagement and disease management for patients with chronic conditions.
However, the future of telehealth — while still brighter than it was pre-pandemic — is not quite as promising as industry experts predicted it would be. Overall, telehealth usage has dropped significantly since global lockdowns lifted.
Moving forward, telehealth vendors and providers must prove the telehealth’s use case for patients with chronic conditions to ensure the modality maintains relevance long term.
Medistics empowers clinical care teams to deliver personalized, preventative care to patients with chronic conditions. The Medistics Care Management Platform is designed to simplify the patient experience at every step of the care journey to improve patient health outcomes.
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