We are entering a new age for remote monitoring and telemedicine where we bring healthcare access to our patients in their own homes. Now more than ever, digital tools and remote monitoring technologies are becoming available to almost anyone, no matter where you live.
This paradigm shift will significantly alter the healthcare landscape going forward. Change is coming, and it is much needed. So, what can healthcare executives and physicians do to ensure a smooth transition?
Welcome to the Clinical Divide. I’m Dr. Kevin Campbell, a Duke-trained cardiologist and CEO of the health data startup PaceMate. Every week, this Healthcare Analytics News™ video series examines Healthcare technology and medicine’s top news. I bring the views that help physicians and healthcare executives bridge the clinical divide.
Last week, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services made headlines by finalizing several rules, all of which CMS says are meant to reduce administrative burdens on physicians and improve patient care. These types of reforms have been long awaited and are much needed, as burnout and job dissatisfaction among physicians are at an all-time high. There’s one rule change in particular that I want to focus on today.
On Oct. 31, CMS changed Medicare’s Home Health Prospective Payment in a big way: Starting in 2020, CMS will reimburse home health providers for the costs of remote monitoring technology. Remote monitoring plays an important role in prevention and cost containment by allowing physicians and patients to have digital touch points in between office visits.
No longer will patients go months without an intervention or office visit — remote monitoring technologies allow physicians to get a look at the patient and their health status in the patient’s home environment. In the cardiac device space, these types of non-office assessments have been shown to significantly impact morbidity and mortality — for every 1,000 patients with cardiac devices who are monitored remotely, 53 deaths and 32 strokes are prevented.
I applaud CMS for this rule change. Too often, our government agencies ignore new technologies or make approval processes quite arduous and expensive. This is a forward-thinking, high-tech move that could result in several positives for healthcare. CMS says it will encourage healthcare’s adoption of new technologies and encourage better data sharing and both acute and chronic care planning. This rule change addresses some of the most important issues in healthcare today: patient empowerment, patient engagement and improved patient experiences.
Here’s my take: Yes, this is a major win for telemedicine and remote monitoring. But, more important, this is a transformational step for healthcare. By green-lighting Medicare reimbursements for remote technology, healthcare delivery is destined to change. After years of struggle, telemedicine could become mainstream.
And this is a critical step toward improving patient care. In the U.S. today, we spend far too much money for the treatment of preventable illnesses. Moreover, not all Americans have access to quality affordable healthcare. This decision by CMS is very likely to improve access to care by helping patients receive care more often and in new and different ways — combining in-office evaluation with remote visits and follow up via the use of digital and telemedicine tools. That’s especially important for people in rural areas, folks without regular transportation and those who have a difficult time getting to the doctor’s office for routine or acute care.
But here’s the thing: Healthcare executives and doctors need to work together and go a step further by continuing to advocate for remote care reimbursement, whether it’s in home health or elsewhere. Collectively, we need to push for reimbursements when it comes to remote-monitoring devices such as pacemakers and ICDs. (My company, PaceMate, has automated and digitized the remote monitoring of these cardiac devices.
We find that our patients have become much more engaged and that our physician customers feel as though they are more in tune with their patient’s health status. At PaceMate, we see the benefits of remote technologies every single day in the form of improved patient outcomes and more efficient clinical workflows.)
In order to make this healthcare transformation a reality, a team effort is required.
Administrators must support the effort to acquire new technologies and must work together with physicians to evaluate and implement remote monitoring and telemedicine. And we need to double down on the technologies and care delivery systems that will ultimately hold down costs and improve patient outcomes.
Remember: Remote technologies in medicine are coming, and it is incumbent upon us to make sure that these technologies are utilized for what matters most — improving access and quality care for all patients regardless of where they live and what their socioeconomic status may be.
Disclaimer: This article was originally published online for Inside Digital Health.