As with any care model, however, healthcare leaders must understand the cost to their facility or organization. The cost of RPM will vary based on these factors:
- Type of patient population
- Workflow adjustments
- Types of devices needed — and how many
- Type of software needed
- Analytics, reporting, and add-ons
- Balancing technology quality and clinical staffing expenses
Calculating your remote patient monitoring cost
As with any customized service that needs to be adapted to fit unique needs, each organization’s remote patient monitoring cost will vary, depending on several factors.
For instance, what type of facility or organization will implement the solution? Given that it’s designed to monitor and, in some cases, 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.
There are a few other factors we can look at to determine the specific cost of telemonitoring for a given facility or organization.
Type of patient population (and pilot program)
Most organizations choose to begin an RPM program with a relatively small, specific patient population before expanding to larger groups. These pilot programs can be useful in proving the value of an RPM device or platform to board members or investors. And since RPM is often used to treat patients with chronic conditions — and those patients increasingly prefer to be treated at home — creating these pilot programs is a simple decision for administrators.
By applying telemonitoring 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 the new remote patient monitoring workflow and provide better 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.
Does your current staff have the skills to deliver remote care? Does your facility have any telehealth programs in place, or will telemonitoring present a new remote patient monitoring workflow to your staff? Do you have any professionals within your ranks 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 a telemonitoring 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 classes around telehealth and remote care.
Something further to consider: A new type of nurse has arisen 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 telemonitoring services means that facilities can potentially save money on workforce overhead.
Types of RPM devices needed — and how many
To best understand the overall cost of remote patient monitoring to your organization, you can determine the types and amount of RPM devices you’ll need to deliver that care. This entails measuring the specific needs of each patient in your pilot program.
RPM is based on the use of a variety of 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.
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 or hypertension, for instance, different devices will be needed.
Notably, if you partner with an RPM provider that bundles a platform with devices, you may be able to lower the total 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 electronic health record (EHR) system, it’s helpful to choose a vendor offering 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 secure a positive return on your RPM investment.
Type of software needed
In addition to devices used to monitor vital signs and other important patient information, an RPM program requires sophisticated software to sync up all necessary components into a workable, fully functional solution. This software needs to be purchased, integrated, and continuously updated to ensure effective and uninterrupted operation and patient data security.
There are a few options, from one-time purchases to subscription-based software to fully integrated partners. For the first, you should be prepared to make a significant upfront payment, as well as continuous investments in renewals and upkeep. For the others, you should receive your RPM software as a package, with little or no additional fees for implementation, and little or no added cost for security patches or scaling up to include new patients.
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 end up deflating the overall value of the program — requiring staff to enter info manually, for instance, or producing a low track record of uptime.
A piecemeal approach to RPM devices and software could also cause interoperability headaches. And offering a substandard remote patient monitoring workflow or 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 price of telemonitoring 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.
Analytics and reporting
If the cost of remote patient monitoring is a pressing concern, leaders should ensure that the program they choose has integrated analytics and reporting options. This can help support continuous improvement through regular analysis of key metrics and data, which can help organizations 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 by each RPM device, it makes sense to make the greatest possible use of that information. With an effective reporting tool, leaders get 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.
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.
Balancing technology quality & staffing expenses
When considering the cost of implementing an RPM program, a crucial factor often overlooked is the human resources cost. This includes expenses related to clinical staff who must manage and interpret data from RPM devices, which can vary significantly based on the quality of the RPM technology itself. Selecting more advanced systems with better integration and automation features can reduce the caseload per patient, thereby requiring less intensive monitoring by clinical staff. This can be a vital cost-saving measure, especially if staff members include higher-paid professionals like RNs, MDs, or nurse practitioners. On the other hand, simpler systems might demand more intensive labor, potentially increasing costs if more or higher-paid staff are needed to manage RPM processes effectively. Hence, balancing technology quality with the level and cost of clinical staffing needed – such as medical assistants (MAs) vs. licensed practical nurses (LPNs) vs. RNs – is crucial for a cost-effective RPM implementation.
Upfront investment vs. risk-based models
Another critical aspect to consider is what payment structure RPM platform vendors offer. Some RPM solutions require a significant upfront investment, which might be a barrier for some healthcare organizations — especially those with limited capital. However, this initial expense might be offset by the advantage of owning the technology outright, potentially lowering long-term costs. In contrast, other technology developers offer risk-based payment options, which can be particularly attractive for organizations cautious about implementing a completely new workflow. With these models, costs are often tied to specific use or clinical milestones, thereby aligning the investment with the success of the RPM program. This approach can offer a lower-risk pathway to implementing RPM, particularly for organizations new to this technology or uncertain about the scale of their long-term use. However, it’s important to carefully consider the ongoing costs and potential dependencies that might arise from such arrangements.
Looking for a more specific remote patient monitoring cost?
Of course, many more factors will drive the overall cost of telemonitoring, and a few more important questions should be asked before making your decision.
For instance, how does scalability weigh into your strategy? 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 that also offers 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.