When healthcare organizations decide whether to invest in an remote patient monitoring (RPM) program, the first consideration is usually funding. Are there any federal RPM funding options available that can help pay for the setup of the program, as well as its administration and the ongoing delivery of a permanent remote patient monitoring system and related models of patient care?
The short answer is yes. Although almost all federal grants are restricted to non-profit organizations, and most commonly those that serve rural populations, there are a number of opportunities within those parameters. There are also ways to engage with these programs to maximize the value of the funding received. Let’s take a closer look.
What RPM funding is available from federal grants?
The U.S. government distributes millions in federal grant money to healthcare organizations every year. But where does that money go? The most common sources for federal grants to healthcare organizations are:
- The Distance Learning and Telemedicine (DLT) program offered by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) grants offered by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS)
- Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) funding offered by the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA)
Officially designated as a means to “help rural communities use the unique capabilities of telecommunications to connect to each other and to the world, overcoming the effects of remoteness and low population density,” DLT is a competitive program that’s open to most healthcare organizations, including both non-profit and for-profit entities.
The program awards grant-only funds on a yearly basis, in the form of a 15% match for the “acquisition of eligible capital assets.” This includes audio/video equipment, broadband facilities, computer hardware and software and other technological assets, including instructional programming and technical assistance and instruction. You can learn more about the USDA’s DLT programs here.
Supporting services for mental health and substance use/misuse prevention and disorders, SAMHSA offers a network of discretionary grant programs to “domestic public and private non-profit entities” only. Though the emphasis is on mental health and substance abuse, funding for the treatment of chronic conditions like AIDS/HIV is also available. You can learn more about SAMHSA grants here.
Grants awarded by the HRSA are the most common source of funding for RPM programs. Facilities that receive this funding generally fall within three categories: Medicare-certified rural health clinics (RHCs), FQHCs, and FQHC Look-Alikes. What’s the difference? RHCs are restricted to rural regions, while FQHCs can operate in rural or urban areas. Look-alikes are community-based providers that meet FQHC requirements but haven’t yet received any grant funding.
Other sources of federal funding exist, but are rarely assigned directly to private organizations. The grants offered by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) are usually aimed more at improving broadband infrastructure, as are the USDA’s other Telecom Program grants. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) also sometimes provides funding, but typically for research purposes.
For instance, Community Health Center of Southeast Kansas — the largest FQHC in the state — was able to leverage $366,167 in RPM funding via FCC telehealth grants to deliver household internet service for its patients. Combined with another grant that allowed it to secure RPM devices from CareSimple, that FCC grant formed an important part of a larger strategy to fund an RPM program that’s still going strong.
Need help drafting your RPM funding request? Get started on the right foot with the CareSimple Sample RFP for RPM Solutions
How can organizations leverage federal grants to secure RPM funding?
Because RHCs, FQHCs and look-alikes generally do not operate on a fee-for-service basis but instead collect bundled payments under Medicare’s Prospective Payment System (PPS), they’re not eligible to use the current CPT® codes for RPM programs. They can, however, receive reimbursement for other virtual care services like chronic care management (CCM) and transitional care management (TCM).
What is a chronic care management program, and what reimbursement does it offer to healthcare organizations? Find out here
It’s in this context that many facilities have sought funding for the HRSA’s National Hypertension Control Initiative Supplemental Funding for Health Centers (NHCI-HC). The source of $89.5 million in federal grants for the 2021 fiscal year, the NHCI-HC grant program supports treating hypertension patients in a number of ways — including the use and acquisition of remote blood pressure monitoring devices.
Yet FQHCs that do receive RPM funding often fail to integrate everything necessary for a successful program. RPM devices or other pieces of the continuum are best used in conjunction with other components like a software system that offers EHR/EMR integration and an easy-to-use interface for workers. Without a complete platform, investments in individual pieces may not have the desired effect.
One reason why these programs may not be thoroughly set up is a legitimate concern over sustainability. But for organizations that strategically use federal grants to build out more comprehensive programs for RPM and CCM services, implementing a turnkey solution can offer benefits that will endure long after the federal grant dollars used to create it.
For instance, a formal RPM platform gives providers access to more, better-quality data for informed decision making — an especially useful benefit when treating high-risk patients. That data can be safely and seamlessly integrated into an organization’s EHR/EMR system for even more efficient management. Data analysis and reporting tools can also be integrated to better manage and leverage that data.
Pro tip: When choosing an RPM program that offers EHR/EMR integration, be sure to look for compatibility with common platforms like Epic OCHIN, NextGen and athenahealth. You can learn more about what to look for in RPM/EHR integration here.
Perhaps more importantly, RPM, like other telehealth technology, connects providers with patients that may otherwise be unable to travel to them. Even as we approach the end of the public health emergency (PHE) that has driven the adoption of RPM for many organizations, having this infrastructure in place will boost their ability to continue to best serve patients in the years to come.
“Based on our internal survey data, as many as 15%-20% of our over 65,000 patients have inconsistent access to reliable transportation to get to and from their appointments,” said CHC/SEK director of patient engagement Leah Gagnon. “Therefore, in an area with high rates of chronic disease, many patients may not be able to travel to the clinic for a weekly blood pressure check with the nurse, even though these are free and quick appointments.”
As a result of this and other factors, patient demand for remote care is higher than ever. This isn’t just because it’s convenient and costs less, but also because it lets them receive critical treatment from the comfort of home, surrounded by loved ones. Meeting this demand can help ensure a better patient experience, which can in turn drive outcomes and referrals.
Take a deeper dive into how RPM helps better manage chronic care patients
How can healthcare organizations best seize these RPM funding opportunities?
It may take some strategic thinking for organizations to get the most value from these RPM funding opportunities. Many have already used grants to ignite RPM programs. To best do so, some are pooling their resources, creating or joining consortiums with other local providers for a better chance of securing competitive awards and to get better returns on larger investments.
Getting the best possible results, however, may require the expertise and guidance of a third party. One persistent stumbling block has been the use of grants to purchase RPM components without first establishing a strategy for the successful achievement of targeted care outcomes. A dedicated partner like CareSimple can help set that strategy, starting with pre-award consultations and extending through implementation and post-program period sustainability.
For organizations seeking guidance in leveraging grants to launch a sustainable RPM program, CareSimple offers the expertise and experience to get the job done right. In addition, our dedicated customer success team and program monitoring and reporting capabilities deliver valuable support and guideposts for successful outcomes, enabling the type of high-quality reporting that can increase the chances of landing future RPM funding awards.
Whether your organization is a private practice or an FQHC like Community Health Center of Southeast Kansas (CHC/SEK), a CareSimple partnership can make all the difference in the success of an RPM program.
“We have learned more about the huge technological and digital access barriers that many of our rural patients face,” said CHC/SEK director of patient engagement Leah Gagnon about the organization’s CareSimple partnership.
“Certainly, we will prevent significant healthcare events for these connected patients because they have a device and know that their trusted RPM nurse is overseeing their values. In the meantime, we have connected more than 3,000 patients with a device who would otherwise not have access to one.”
CareSimple is standing by to help
If you’re looking for help putting RPM funding opportunities to the best possible use, we’re standing by to help. As one of the nation’s leading providers of secure, scalable and user-friendly remote patient monitoring (RPM) technology and solutions, CareSimple offers the expertise to help you land on the plan that’s best suited to meet your specific operational needs. Contact us today to learn more.
We also invite you to get started on the right foot with your RPM funding request with our sample RFP for RPM programs.