The use of telehealth to offer patients at-home care is spreading faster than ever across the United States. With most leaders now realizing the need to meet this patient demand, what should they expect when anticipating their expenses? Specifically, what’s the cost of remote patient monitoring (RPM) to a healthcare facility or organization?
Quick read: The cost of RPM will vary based on these factors:
- Type of patient population
- Workforce adjustments
- Type of devices needed — and how many
- Type of software needed
- Analytics, reporting and add-ons
Calculating the cost of remote patient monitoring
So, what’s the average cost of remote patient monitoring, and what kind of financial investment should leaders expect to make? As with any customized service that needs to be adapted to each facility’s unique needs, the specific cost of an RPM program will vary for each organization, depending on a number of factors.
For instance, what type of facility or organization will be implementing the solution? Given that it’s designed to treat patients at home, RPM can be administered by a wide variety of providers, from home health and skilled nursing to population health and specialty care. It’s also widely used in post-acute inpatient settings in hospitals and health centers to monitor high-risk patients.
So, the cost of RPM will be determined more by the size and the type of the population it’s treating, rather than the facility itself. With that in mind, there are a few other factors we can look at to determine the specific cost of remote patient monitoring for a given facility or organization.
RPM cost factor #1: Type of patient population (and pilot program).
Most organizations choose to begin an RPM program on a relatively small, specific patient population before expanding to larger groups. These pilot programs can be useful in proving the value of RPM to board members or investors. And since RPM is often used to treat patients with chronic conditions — and those patients now prefer to be treated at home — creating these pilot programs is a fairly simple matter for administrators.
Pro Tip: By applying RPM to a specific pilot population, you can get a good idea of what kind of results to expect when scaling the program to a larger population. But don’t forget that efficiencies also expand with wider use, further increasing the value over time. In addition, staff will become more comfortable with — and better at — providing RPM services as use grows.
So, even though a pilot program can give you a good idea of your long-term RPM ROI, it’s important to remember to expect ongoing improvements on a curve that’s favorable to your long-term prospects.
RPM cost factor #2: Workforce adjustments.
Does your current staff have the skills to deliver remote care? Does your facility have any telehealth programs in place, or will this be new territory for your workers? Do you have any professionals on staff who specialize in remote care? If not, how much training will you need?
Although implementing a comprehensive RPM platform often includes employee training, when implementing an RPM program on a piecemeal basis, the readiness of your staff is a key consideration. Get an honest assessment of this factor to understand what additional investments you’ll have to make before implementation, whether in group training or access to specific CE classes around telehealth and remote care.
Pro Tip:A new type of nurse has sprung up in recent years to provide specialized remote care, in accordance with new CMS reimbursement guidelines. Since these nurses can also work from home, employing them to administer RPM services means that facilities can potentially save money on workforce overhead by moving a large segment of CMS-reimbursed care to an out-of-facility basis.
RPM cost factor #3: Type of devices needed — and how many.
To best understand the overall cost of remote patient monitoring to your organization, you can estimate the amount of devices you’ll need to deliver that care. This is a simple matter of measuring the specific needs of each patient in your pilot program.
RPM is based on the use of a variety of remote medical devices, including remote blood pressure monitors for patients with hypertension, remote blood glucose monitors to manage diabetic and pre-diabetic patients, remote oximeters to measure inspiratory pressure for respiratory patients, and many others. (Get an overview of RPM devices here.)
Which of these specific devices you need — and how many — will depend on the nature of the patients you treat. If your pilot program is patients with COPD, for instance, or hypertension, different devices will be needed.
Pro Tip: If you partner with an RPM provider that bundles a platform with devices, you may be able to lower the cost and avoid capital expenses for your organization by leasing rather than buying high-quality devices as part of your contract.
And, although your platform provider will help integrate devices with your wider EHR system, it’s helpful to choose a partner that offers devices that can automatically — and safely — connect. This helps ensure ease of use for patients. It also gives clinical staff access to patient information that’s timelier and more comprehensive, which can improve outcomes, helping ensure a good return on your RPM investment.
RPM cost factor #4: Type of software needed.
In addition to the devices used to monitor vital signs and other important patient information, an RPM program requires the use of sophisticated software to sync up all the components into a workable, fully functional solution. This is software that needs to be purchased, integrated, and continuously updated to ensure effective and uninterrupted operation, as well as the security of patient data.
There are a few options here, from one-time purchases to subscription-based services to fully integrated partners. For the first, you should be prepared to make a significant up-front payment, and to make continuous investments in renewals and upkeep. For the others, you should receive your RPM software as a package, with no additional fees for implementation, and no added cost for security patches or scaling up to include new patients.
Pro Tip: Investing in a higher grade of RPM software could make a big difference as to whether a program is successful. Lower-cost solutions could include enough drawbacks that it ends up deflating the overall value of the program — requiring staff to enter info manually, for instance, or a low track record of uptime.
A piecemeal approach to RPM devices and software could also cause interoperability headaches, if not overseen by a true telehealth expert. And offering a substandard RPM interface isn’t likely to have a positive effect on the patient experience, either — a potential liability in an age of patient-centered care.
So, although it may be available at a lower upfront cost, some software can easily increase the cost of remote patient monitoring in ways that detract from a program’s overall value. A customized solution, however, can help ensure a better experience for your patients, as well as the scalability you need to grow and change along with your needs.
RPM cost factor #5: Analytics and reporting.
If the cost of remote patient monitoring is a pressing concern, leaders should ensure that the program they choose has an integrated program of analytics and reporting. This can help ensure continuous improvement through regular analysis of key metrics and data, which can help organization get the maximum value for a program, lowering overall costs in the long run.
After all, with the tremendous amount of patient data being recorded during remote monitoring, it makes sense to make the greatest possible use of that information. With an effective reporting tool, leaders get that data in digestible snapshots and easy-to-scan data visualizations that can take many forms — a website dashboard, printable PDFs, or whatever your leadership team prefers.
Pro Tip: For busy leaders, the information provided by analytics could help drive better-informed decisions that affect the quality of care of entire populations, thus deriving even more value from the program. So, it’s worth making the extra investment in an analytics and reporting option at an early stage — or partnering with a customizable RPM solutions provider with built-in tools for this purpose.
Looking for a more specific cost of remote patient monitoring?
Of course, many more factors will drive the overall cost of remote patient monitoring, and a few more important questions should be asked before making your decision.
How does scalability weigh into your strategy, for instance? Are you prepared to face the expense of multiplying your investment across larger populations? Do you have the expertise to implement a solution on a large scale — or would you be better served by working with a customized solutions provider who also offered implementation and premium customer support?
Remember, the best RPM platforms are designed to be flexible, meeting the specific needs of your organization in a way that should inherently drive down your operational expenses. If you’re interested in finding a specific cost of remote patient monitoring for your organization, your best bet is to start a conversation or schedule a demo with a leading RPM provider, stat.
Looking for additional information or guidance on RPM reimbursement?
Get a handy, printable map of current CPT® codes for RPM, chronic care management, principal care management and more with our RPM Reimbursement Tree.