Advances in telehealth and remote patient monitoring, as well as the demands of the patient-consumer, are creating a seismic shift in healthcare delivery— most noticeably in the shift to outpatient care. With the right technology and infrastructure, physicians can care for many patients remotely and perform interventional procedures from their clinics or at imaging centers, micro hospitals and special surgery centers. The intersection of new technology and the patient-consumer is driving health care offerings to become more diversified, while delivering enhanced care at a lower cost.
According to Berg Insight, an estimated 36.1 million patients will be remotely monitored by 2020. Coupled with the proliferation of telehealth as a means to better triage patients and expand the reach of health care in remote locations, telehealth and remote patient monitoring are facilitating the shift to outpatient care and decentralizing the delivery of health care. The shift to distributed health care does not imply disparate health care, as the opposite holds true. Care coordination and communication must be synchronized and tests, procedures and results have to be available to everyone in the chain of outpatient care. Duplication is minimized and the most up-to-date patient information is shared from one branch of outpatient care to another quickly and efficiently.
Here, real-time remote medical monitoring forms the backbone of outpatient care. When patient data is collected in real-time and stored on the cloud, physicians from various points of care can access this information. Combined with a patient’s medical history, which can also be stored on the cloud, physicians and care centers are better equipped to offer faster, more accurate diagnoses. Long-term and near-continuous monitoring also aids in better detection of early warning signs in an illness, resulting in decreased patient hospital admission rates and early intervention. After a diagnosis or a procedure, patients can be kept under observation with real-time remote monitoring, receiving effective treatment in outpatient facilities if further care becomes necessary.
Patients today are consumers; they insist on having options and making informed decisions in matters concerning their own healt care. The shift to outpatient care caters to the patient-consumer because it aims to offer patients options that can give them convenient access to the closest location that can care for them. Many patients can’t afford high-deductible plans and out-of-pocket spending for people with employer-provided health insurance has increased by more than 50% since 2010, according to human resources consultant Aon Hewitt. Building services in convenient locations that have an affordable price point is a key goal in the shift to outpatient care. Informed patients with options are engaged patients, and engaged patients take a more proactive role in the management of their own health.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services recently proposed to shift outpatient surgical and “surgical-like” (interventional) procedures out of more expensive hospitals to lower-cost ambulatory surgery centers, instituting site-neutral payments for clinic visits under Medicare. This would give physicians and ambulatory clinics a competitive edge and encourage patient-driven health care. Already effective as of January 1, CMS has unbundled CPT code 99091 to enable eligible practitioners to receive separate reimbursement for time that is spent on collecting and interpreting remote patient health data that is digitally stored and transmitted to a provider. By recognizing remote patient monitoring services for separate payment, CMS has encouraged widespread implementation of medical-grade remote monitoring solutions for outpatient care. This is a good move for all parties involved because when health care, reimbursement and technology systems are aligned, outpatient care can provide better health care for patients while driving significant cost savings.
Waqaas Al-Siddiq is the founder and CEO of Biotricity, a biometric remote monitoring solutions company.