Much more than just a buzzword, patient-centered care has become a key driver in healthcare in the United States — and with good reason. By delivering patient-centered care, organizations can improve individual health outcomes on top of a variety of other benefits, like increasing referral rates and more cost-effectively treating patients with chronic illness.

And, as its name suggests, remote patient monitoring (RPM) is a useful tool in meeting the goal of delivering patient-centered care. Let’s take a closer look at how RPM empowers patient-centered care, and how can providers and practices leverage this powerful telehealth tool to boost patient engagement, satisfaction, health outcomes and more.

What is patient-centered care?

So, what do we mean by patient-centered care, exactly? Specific organization may have their own interpretations, but patient-centered care in its most basic sense refers to care that focuses directly on an individual’s specific needs. It’s a model of care that considers every aspect of the healthcare process from the perspective of the patient.  

Or, in the words of clinical experts, patient-centered care requires that “an individual’s specific health needs and desired health outcomes are the driving force behind all health care decisions and quality measurements,” according to a NEJM Catalyst Brief Article.

If that sounds like a sensible, common-sense way to think about clinical care, it’s also a complete upheaval of thousands of years Western medical practice, which emphasized the wisdom and guidance of the physician.

If this is hard to envision, Health Affairs’ James Rickert offers a helpful example. The Harris Hip Score has long been used by orthopedic surgeons to measure the success of hip replacements. Yet it was “designed solely by physicians and does not even ask patients to rate their satisfaction with the procedure.” As such, “it is unknown whether almost any physician derived tools, such as the Harris Hip Score, accurately reflect the patient experience.”

And so, for many organizations, truly delivering patient-centered care may require a rethinking of the design and management of their processes, systems and even facility layouts. It’s a big job, and not an instant fix. For instance, the Office of Patient Centered Care & Cultural Transformation has been working to transform the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to patient-centered care since 2011.

The benefits of delivering patient-centered care

Delivering patient-centered care is important for several other reasons, too. It’s been shown to result in improved clinical outcomes for patients, as well as improved satisfaction scores and a better reputation for organizations within their communities — both of which can help boost business and referral rates. And happier, more engaged patients can lead to improved staff satisfaction, productivity and retention, further bolstering financial margins.

“Patient-centered care is associated with a higher rate of patient satisfaction, adherence to suggested lifestyle changes and prescribed treatment, better outcomes and more cost-effective care,” as April Reynolds MS, ELS explains in a well-known definition published in Radiologic Technology.

Patient-centered approaches are also frequently cited as effective ways for organizations to achieve value-based care, which is increasingly required to receive payment for delivering essential patient care. By tying value-based care to reimbursement dollars, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is incentivizing health care providers to adopt these measures and help reduce health care costs.

These are powerful benefits at a time when every little competitive edge could make a big difference. And RPM gives organizations a powerful tool for realizing them, and for more effectively meeting the challenge of patient-centered care.

8 ways remote patient monitoring (RPM) enables patient-centered care

#1: Promoting patient engagement

As April Reynolds MS, ELS explained in a frequently cited definition published in Radiologic Technology in 2009, a central goal of patient-centered care “is to empower patients to become active participants in their care.” And effective RPM programs are designed to meet that goal by giving patients a way to engage with their care each and every day, thanks to regular data readings and actionable clinical goals.

Adhering to the CMS Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM) program also means adhering to engagement strategies. Depending on the reimbursement code used, billing practitioners can receive reimbursement for up to 60 minutes of time spent in direct consultation with patients each month. You can read more about current RPM codes and reimbursement rates here.

#2: Providing clinicians with unprecedented patient data and insights

The continuous or near-continuous monitoring offered by remote patient monitoring devices provides physicians and care teams with more data than ever before. Instead of relying on patients to report discomfort or erratic events, RPM devices like remote blood pressure monitors, pulse oximeters and weight monitors give care teams tangible info into these important indicators, all day, every day.

But too much data can be a problem as well, especially if it’s unorganized or difficult to access. So, effective RPM platforms also provide a basis for understanding that data, helping clinicians, administrators and leaders access in a way that emphasizes the most urgent data and trends and enables earlier interventions. The system should also be able to safely and seamlessly transfer patient data to the providers’ electronic health/medical records (EHR/EMR) system.

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#3: Better managing chronic conditions

Diagnosis with a chronic condition is a deeply felt experience for most patients. Making treatment more comfortable, understandable and engaging can help ensure the patient’s wellbeing and satisfaction during every stage of a difficult and emotional process. Patient-centered care addresses this need by focusing “on physical comfort as well as emotional well-being,” as the NEJM Catalyst terms it.

Remote patient monitoring is specifically designed to allow health providers to treat chronic conditions remotely, in a way that emphasizes comfort. As the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) explains, RPM can empower providers to better manage chronic conditions by enabling preventive care. It also “cuts down on patients’ travel costs and infection risk,” a great add-on for those seeking to deliver patient-centered care.

Related: 3 Reasons Why Health Providers Use RPM for Chronic Care

#4: Helping address social determinants of health

Today, it’s widely understood that negative social determinants of health can be major obstacles to delivering effective care. After all, patients can hardly be made the priority for care if they can’t afford treatment, or if they’re unable to contact a healthcare provider.

Plenty of research has supported this idea in recent years. A 2021 study published in the Journal of Primary Care & Community Health pointed out that “ER overutilization rates are higher in lower income zip codes than wealthier zip codes (34% vs 9%) as is the prevalence of diabetes, overweight/obesity, and behavioral issues, and decreased use of preventive services.”

RPM helps overcome these obstacles by affordably extending virtual care into the homes of more people, especially those may not otherwise be able to receive the care they require. And that access is only increasing each year, as the federal government has continually funded efforts to expand online infrastructure over the past decade.

And what’s more, some of that funding may be available to organizations seeking to implement RPM programs in underserved areas. You can get more information on what RPM grants are available to fund RPM programs here.

#5: Enabling more collaboration and better care coordination

According to the NEJM Catalyst article, patient-centered care must be “collaborative, coordinated, and accessible” by nature. “The right care is provided at the right time and the right place.”

And according to Stephanie Crossen, MD, MPH, associate professor with the University of California Davis Department of Pediatrics and Center for Health and Technology, telehealth technologies like RPM are uniquely suited to meet this need by providing better “provider-to-provider education and remote consultations between diabetes subspecialists and primary care providers.”

Simply by collecting so much data, and then making it available to every appropriate clinician, RPM platforms also enable collaboration and care coordination. That level of sharing can resolve common frustrations — such as a technologist trying to get information from a nurse, or a nurse trying to confirm medication prescriptions with the doctor. Collaboration and even morale can improve as a result.

#6: Accommodating healthcare consumerism

Delivering patient-centered care is all about meeting patient values. And today, that means aligning with consumerism in healthcare, or providing the level of service that they expect from other, non-clinical transactions.

Most patients “judge the quality of their healthcare much like they rate an airplane flight,” writes Reynolds. “They assume that the airplane is technically viable and is being piloted by competent people. Criteria for judging a particular airline are personal and include aspects like comfort, friendly service and on-time schedules.

“Similarly, patients judge the standard of their healthcare on nontechnical aspects, such as a healthcare practitioner’s communication and ‘soft skills.’ Most are unable to evaluate a practitioner’s level of technical skill or training, so the qualities they can assess become of the utmost importance in satisfying patients and providing patient-centered care.”

Much like any other service they pay for, any given health care consumer today will respond favorably to increased comfort and convenience — two of the hallmark patient benefits offered by remote patient monitoring.

#7: Empowering families

Both patients and their families should be the focus of patient-centered care, observe the NEJM Catalyst authors. “The presence of family members in the care setting is encouraged and facilitated,” they note. “Information is shared fully and in a timely manner so that patients and their family members can make informed decisions.”

Because it’s set up to run from their home, remote monitoring is an effective way to automatically involve the family in the same day-to-day engagement and shared decision-making as the patients themselves. Family members can also be involved in the tracking of information by RPM devices, and can more easily help patients work toward their goals. They’ll also have instant access to important data, without needing to receive it from the doctor or health care team.

#8: Helping to implement long-lasting structural improvements

To truly succeed at delivering patient-centered care, an organization’s entire mission, vision and policies should be aligned in that direction. That’s a tall order — but a proven provider of RPM solutions can help organizations meet it in a way that’s timely, efficient and cost effective.

By implementing an RPM platform throughout an organization, then integrating it with the EMR system, organizations are investing in the infrastructure they need to ensure their ability to focus on deliver a fully functional patient-centered care model in the years to come.

And by partnering with a proven service provider with demonstrated experience implementing successful programs, they can rest assured that their RPM solution will continue to grow and develop with them, matching their growth and scaling up to meet any new challenges that come with it.

Focus on delivering patient-centered care with CareSimple

Interested in learning more about delivering patient-centered care with RPM technology? Offering one of the nation’s leading RPM platforms, the CareSimple team has the expertise and reliability to help guide you through this important task. Contact us today to discover how we can help your organization meet its unique medical care needs with the power of telehealth technology.