Beyond the Clinic: How Remote Monitoring Fits into Team-Based Care

Last week, CMS announced it will start paying physicians to interpret remote monitoring data – such as from scales, blood pressure cuffs or glucometers – for 30 minutes a month. At $60 per patient per month, the reimbursement rate is relatively low. Still, it’s a promising signal from the industry that the march towards patient-centered care has begun.

Over the past decade, telehealth and telemonitoring have grown at a rapid rate. An estimated 7 million people now use connected medical devices as an integral component of their care regimen, and surveys suggest that 72% of patients see mHealth devices as having a positive impact on their health decisions. These patient perceptions are reflected in the literature as well, with studies touting the positive impact of remote monitoring for conditions ranging from major depression to chronic conditions.

The question that remains: Are physicians poised to adopt remote monitoring? We can agree that most physicians are genuinely driven to help patients get better. But we also know that their busy schedules don’t offer much free time for sifting through data portals. Until doctors are truly held accountable for cost of care (or until CMS raises this reimbursement rate), physicians’ motivation to interpret remote monitoring data will remain at odds with the many other higher-paying demands of their workday.

This presents some new questions: What exactly does it entail to “interpret” remote monitoring data anyway? And does the responsibility necessarily have to fall on physicians? Perhaps the benefits of remote monitoring can be reaped without requiring physicians to do the heavy-lifting.

Team-based care has emerged as a high-impact solution for many of healthcare’s value-based aspirations. A widespread model employs care managers, care coordinators, wellness coaches or similar healthcare professionals to support physicians with patient management. Because these care team members are responsible for promoting patient health beyond the walls of the clinic, they are well positioned to become champions of remote monitoring. With the right tools, care managers can leverage remote monitoring data, such as physical activity and mood assessments, to provide real-time support and feedback to patients in between appointments. If the data suggests risk such as suicidal ideation or significant decompensation, care managers can be prompted to escalate the case to physicians.

The CMS rule marks another important step towards patient-centered, value-based care. But the real potential of remote monitoring lies in the hands of care managers. After all, the vast majority of patient health behaviors take place in the context of everyday life – not squeezed into the confines of a physician’s busy schedule. Why should patient data be any different?