Despite Reimbursement Issues, Remote Patient Monitoring Poised to Explode Like Visual Visits Did Previously

Sometimes, the benefits of providing a given service are so compelling that healthcare organizations are willing to swallow some of even all of the costs of providing it. The use of virtual visits had begun to reach that point even before COVID-19 hit.

Now, the remote patient monitoring market is evolving in a similar manner, with services coming first and payers poised to cut loose with reimbursement once it’s clear the ROI is there.  This expansion seems all the more likely as the pandemic maintains its grip heading into this year.

The benefits of RPM services are more and more obvious as use cases continue to emerge. One recent way health systems are using such tools today is to discharge and monitor COVID-19-positive but stable and low acuity patients from their emergency departments.

Ordinarily, few healthcare organizations will commit to investing in new technologies if they’re not being paid directly to use them.  Still, that hasn’t prevented institutions like the Cleveland Clinic from planning a comprehensive telehealth service which I, at least, see as a step toward creating a virtual hospital. The Clinic does expect to attract self-pay patients interested in its high-profile specialists via telehealth tech, but its longer-term plans seem to be focused on bringing virtual care into the mainstream.

The adoption of RPM services is gradually beginning to be seen as a similarly powerful option. This trend has been somewhat obscured of late, as much of the trend analysis and case studies appearing lately involve academic research rather than live clinical use, but there it’s clear that routine real-world use is becoming more common.

For example, if you search for wearables-related projects, however, the expanding interest in RPM stands out in greater relief.  Some examples I’ve seen include the following:

  • Scripps and Stanford are partnering with Fitbit to determine whether Fitbit’s devices can collect data that will help them detect, track and manage infectious disease such as COVID-19
  • NYC Hospitals + Health is working with Lumeon to create a system that will monitor COVID-19 cases at home
  • Northwestern University has partnered with Chicago-based Shirley Ryan AbilityLab to create a wearable device capable of tracking important COVID-19 symptoms when patients return home after being discharged
  • Cable giant Comcast is preparing to launch an in-home device designed to monitor patients’ health, which will include ambient sensors that can capture patient movements
  • Geisinger has created a program to monitor COVID-19 patients in their homes using basic tech tools such as mobile apps and Epic’s MyChart Care Companion

The bottom line is that RPM is about where telehealth was five years ago, which is to say that while it’s a solution in search of a problem in some people’s minds, it has a bright future.

About the author

Anne Zieger

Anne Zieger

Anne Zieger is a healthcare journalist who has written about the industry for 30 years. Her work has appeared in all of the leading healthcare industry publications, and she's served as editor in chief of several healthcare B2B sites.