Patients who live in rural areas incur various costs attributed to physically traveling to the office to meet with their doctor when needed. When these patients require more frequent visits for chronic disease management, the cost of transportation, missed work, out-of-pocket costs, and a number of other costs can become a significant barrier to care.
Rural hospitals face a myriad of unique challenges that often affect both their financial health and the health outcomes of the patients they serve. Obstacles, including declining patient volumes, a higher population of elderly chronically ill patients, and greater use of government-sponsored payment programs such as Medicare and Medicaid, are forcing all rural hospitals to scramble to make ends meet while trying to maintain patient access to quality care.
To help offset these challenges, some rural hospitals have begun to focus on diversifying the care they offer and provide to their patients, to better ensure that these hospitals meet the health needs of patients in an efficient and effective manner. efficient while creating sustainable sources of income. One of the ways rural hospitals are achieving both of these goals simultaneously is by adopting telehealth services like remote patient monitoring, also known as RPM.
RPM can be the bridge that brings quality healthcare to vulnerable patients with chronic conditions. RPM generally requires fairly simple technology for the hospital and its patients, from the system the hospital uses to manage its RPM program to the devices used by the patients. This makes RPM easily adoptable in rural healthcare settings, allowing clinicians to track patients in their rural homes or workplaces.
Through internet and cellular connections, RPM can serve patients residing in remote areas of our country, giving them access to quality healthcare services and resources that were previously difficult or impossible to receive due to the burden time, expense, distance and other barriers.
Additionally, now is the time for rural hospitals to embrace telehealth and RPM. The federal government, through the Federal Communications Commission, lobbies and provides significant funding for these services through its rural health care program.
In recent comments regarding proposed reforms to the RHC program that would further strengthen support for telehealth and RPM, FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr said, “Life-saving telehealth connections are often only possible with support from the FCC’s RHC program. … We need to ensure that the program provides the certainty required for providers year after year, as the demand for these types of services continues to grow. »
Let’s take a closer look at why rural hospitals are adding RPM to their care arsenal.
Easy access to quality care
Americans living in rural areas experience higher death rates from some of our most common — and even preventable — chronic diseases. Of the top 10 causes of death in the United States according to the CDC, at least eight qualify for RPM. heart disease; Cancer; COVID-19[FEMININE;cerebrovasculardiseases;chroniclowerrespiratorydiseasessuchasasthmaorCOPD;Alzheimer’sdisease;diabetes;andnephritisnephroticsyndromeandnephrosisareallsymptomsthatcanbemonitoredremotelyusingRPMtechnology[FEMININE;maladiescérébrovasculaires;lesmaladieschroniquesdesvoiesrespiratoiresinférieurescommel’asthmeoulaMPOC ;Lamaladied’Alzheimer;Diabète;etlanéphritelesyndromenéphrotiqueetlanéphroseonttousdessymptômesquipeuventêtresurveillésàdistanceàl’aidedelatechnologieRPM
By providing patients with eligible chronic conditions with access to RPM, rural health systems help prevent disease progression and acute exacerbations, as well as reduce the need for hospitalizations, readmissions and outpatient care. more frequent emergencies. However, the benefits don’t stop with better patient health outcomes: keeping patients healthier keeps rural hospitals financially stable by reducing the overall cost of using resources.
Source of additional and sustainable income.
Covered by Medicare and a growing number of private and public payers, RPM helps bring additional – and potentially significant – revenue to rural hospitals. As evidenced by the CDC, rural patients tend to suffer disproportionately from chronic conditions, which means that RPM services are not only needed in rural healthcare populations, but also highly sustainable. With RPM reimbursements of approximately $100 per patient per month, the initial investment required to establish a program is typically recouped in a short time.
Cost effective for patients, hospitals and payers
RPM offers a cost-effective solution to provide patients with quality care while minimizing the financial burden on stakeholders along the continuum of care, from patient to payer.
Patients who live in rural areas incur various costs attributed to physically traveling to the office to meet with their doctor when needed. When these patients require more frequent visits for chronic disease management, the cost of transportation, missed work, out-of-pocket costs, and a number of other costs can become a significant barrier to care. In some cases, the costs can be so significant that many patients often choose not to receive the specialized care they need. RPM can help reduce or even eliminate some financial barriers while allowing patients to receive valuable care and monitoring from their home or wherever they are.
RPM also helps hospitals better manage some of their key challenges. They were already busy environments before COVID-19. Many hospitals are still overburdened with infectious patients while clinician burnout continues to rise. Hospitals and healthcare systems may be hesitant to add managing yet another piece of technology to their daily workflow. However, RPM is well suited to help streamline current workflows and provide the ability for other skilled members of the care team to participate in virtual patient care, while keeping patients in and out of the home. the hospital itself.
After minimal use, most clinicians will gain efficiency from an intuitive RPM system. Plus, the service allows them to share the burden of care with a skilled healthcare team, salvaging valuable minutes in their day and allowing them to focus on patients who really need in-person attention.
Payers also benefit greatly from RPM. Anything related to a chronic disease is expensive; however, effectively managing symptoms, preventing disease progression, and avoiding emergency room care and hospitalization saves payers money. RPM for patients with chronic conditions can save payers thousands of dollars per patient per year. Those dollars add up quickly when you consider that the average cost of a hospital stay exceeds $10,000. Hospitalizations associated with heart failure — a common condition monitored via RPM — cost an average of nearly $14,000. It’s no wonder that payers are increasingly offering virtual health plans.
Increase quality scores and higher patient satisfaction rates while helping to increase patient engagement
RPM provides rural health clinicians with important insights into the daily lives and health of their patients, providing opportunities for better-informed clinical decision-making. RPM enables practitioners to make rapid decisions based on real-time patient data, which in turn can lead to better health outcomes and mitigate acute disease exacerbations before they become an emergency.
For patients, RPM is simple and convenient, making them more willing to actively engage and participate in a consistent way with their care plan. RPM offers patients holistic support, essentially holding their hand and guiding them towards more effective disease management and potentially reducing symptom exacerbation and health emergencies, while promoting personal responsibility for their health.
For rural hospitals, where every incoming dollar counts, keeping patients in a healthier ambulatory state can mean higher quality scores and more substantial reimbursements. RPM also provides an additional revenue stream that promotes efficiency and effectiveness in workflows.
Increased clinical efficiency while helping to offset some of the effects of staffing shortages
It’s no secret that one of the biggest challenges facing rural hospitals is finding and retaining adequate staff. Rural hospitals may find it difficult to attract qualified staff and even more difficult to stay competitive with salary and benefit packages. Ultimately, rural hospitals are often understaffed, making the influx of patient requests difficult to manage.
Due to these issues, it is essential to achieve efficiency wherever possible. RPM helps bring the efficiencies that understaffed rural hospitals desperately need through a technology-enabled team approach to patient care.
Everyone wins with remote patient monitoring
Rural hospitals are uniquely positioned to create positive impacts in the communities they serve. When technologies like RPM are effectively deployed in their patient care model, everyone wins. For patients, PMR can mean better, more frequent, and more convenient care while encouraging active engagement and personal responsibility for their own health care. For clinical teams, RPM can drive collaboration and efficiency and reduce clinician burnout.
For rural hospitals, RPM can equate to healthier patients, better patient satisfaction rates, improved quality scores, greater workflow efficiency, and a new revenue stream to help to support their future operations as they strive to meet the changing needs of the communities they serve. Although adding RPM will likely require some initial changes to existing workflows, it can be a great benefit to patients at any successful rural hospital for their bottom line.
Lucy Lamboley is Director of Customer Success for Prevounce Health, a healthcare software company that simplifies the delivery of preventive clinical services, chronic care management and remote patient management. Prevounce also provides a connected health ecosystem and connected devices to healthcare systems, insurers and employer wellness programs under its “Pylo Health” brand.