Pop health shift spurs increased use of remote patient monitoring

Population health management is driving provider investments in remote patient monitoring applications, according to a new study by Spyglass Consulting Group.

Some 88 percent of hospitals and health systems surveyed by the consultancy have invested or plan to invest in the technology to help care managers monitor and manage high-risk patients who have chronic conditions, or who are unstable and at risk for hospital readmissions or unexpected emergency department visits.

The move to monitoring applications is a downstream effect of the Affordable Care Act—since then, providers have been consolidating into larger delivery systems, says Gregg Malkary, managing director.

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“They are formulating strategies and deploying foundational technologies and processes required to support population health management programs focused on chronic disease management,” Malkary notes. “Remote patient monitoring solutions have been identified as important early symptom management tools for handling large numbers of chronically ill patients.”

In particular, Spyglass Consulting highlights six areas for providers to consider.

Market drivers: Remote patient monitoring investments are driven by factors that include exploding costs, aging Baby Boomers, increased prevalence of chronic disease and healthcare labor shortages.

Early market adopters: These providers are capitated managed care organizations with fiscal responsibility for patients across the care spectrum. This includes accountable care organizations, health maintenance organizations, home health agencies, hospices, disease management firms and government agencies.

Clinical effectiveness: Providers demonstrate remote patient monitoring products that are clinically effective as an early symptom management tool to support disease management and care coordination. They automate collection of patient vital signs and symptom data, and proactively assess if a patient is deteriorating.

Return on investment: Providers struggle to justify large-scale investments to expand existing chronic care management programs and leverage remote patient monitoring technology. Clinical trials are limited, reimbursements are dominated by fee-for-service contracts, and there is a limited understanding of costs associated with managing the chronically ill across the care continuum.

Patient engagement: Most providers are eyeing engagement strategies to encourage family and friends to help chronic patients take a more proactive role in managing their conditions. Smartphones, tablets, patient portals and telehealth all can play a role.

Deployment challenges in remote patient monitoring: Providers generally have limited budgets and resources to expand care management programs. Remote patient monitoring tools and data are not well integrated with existing clinical systems and workflow. Consequently, providers may lack programs and tools to take advantage of new CPT codes from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services that provide reimbursement for equipment and monitoring services.

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