Remote patient monitoring tools gaining traction for chronic disease management

More than half of hospitals and health systems responding to a new survey are deploying remote patient monitoring systems (RPM) to achieve operational efficiencies, improve risk management and boost care quality and control costs, according to Spyglass Consulting Group.

RPM systems, no doubt, are helping providers reduce hospital readmission rates and bolster early symptom diagnostic efforts. According to the Spyglass report, 66 percent of care providers are tapping RPM; of that group, 84 percent are using mobile devices, primarily tablets, for post-hospital discharge support, according to an announcement on the study. Content was derived, it noted, from more than 100 in-depth interviews with healthcare organizations involved in telehealth/telemedicine, including multi-hospital delivery systems, standalone community hospitals, ambulatory environments, home health agencies and government organizations.

A majority of respondents using RPM are planning to evaluate a patient-based bring-your-own-device mHealth strategy, featuring wearables, smart watches and activity trackers. Of those surveyed, 79 percent are also open to using analytics and decision support tools to turn raw patient data into "actionable knowledge."

Yet RPM adoption still face challenges, says Gregg Malkary, Spyglass' managing director.

"Many are struggling to define population health strategies across continuum of care," Malkary tells FierceMobileHealthcare, adding that RPM is happening within larger vertically and horizontally integrated health systems at this point. Of the organizations polled for the study, 87 percent are Accountable Care Organizations. 

The reason RPM is targeting chronic conditions is multi-fold, Malkary says. One prime goal is to stem readmission penalties for excessive readmissions of Medicare patients.

"Population health initiatives are initially focusing on chronic disease management," he says. "High risk unstable patients with chronic conditions typically represent 20 percent of patient population but incur 80 percent of total healthcare costs."

The growing use of tablets correlates with the increasing number of apps patients are downloading, according to Malkary; the form factor also provides a friendlier user experience, he says.

"Larger screens make it easier to develop a compelling user interface that is easier for an elderly patient with deteriorating eyesight and dexterity to utilize," Malkary says.

Despite Spyglass' findings, even more widespread RPM adoption is being slowed by a few challenges, he adds, including the current fee-for-service Medicare payment system, burdensome integration with clinical information systems and the need for a foundational infrastructure.

"Without reimbursement for devices and monitoring, many health systems, hospitals, and clinics have been reluctant to make any investments," Malkary says. "I anticipate this will start to change next year."

Within three to five years, he expects RPM will become a "standard practice" for larger health systems.

"The writing is on the wall that health systems, under fee-for-performance, will be required to track key quality metrics about patients when they are outside the four walls of a healthcare setting," Malkary says.

For more information:
- read an announcement on the study (.pdf)