Using technology to monitor patients at home gets boost from Medicare

Rebecca Vesely

About Rebecca Vesely

Rebecca Vesely is AHCJ's topic leader on health information technology and a freelance writer. She has written about health, science and medicine for AFP, the Bay Area News Group, Modern Healthcare, Wired, Scientific American online and many other news outlets.

Remote patient monitoring – using technology to keep track of a patient’s health between doctor visits – is gaining traction as our population ages and a health care workforce shortage persists.

Hospital, physician groups and insurers are generally enthusiastic about remote patient monitoring for patients with chronic conditions or who need extra support after a hospital stay (because it can reduce unnecessary hospital admissions). But payment for these services has generally been lacking.

That could change soon. CMS Administrator Seema Verma this week proposed including remote patient monitoring by home health agencies in allowable administrative costs for the Medicare program.

“Today’s proposals would give doctors more time to spend with their patients, allow home health agencies to leverage innovation and drive better results for patients,” Verma said in a statement.

The proposed change is “expected to help foster the adoption of emerging technologies by home health agencies and result in more effective care planning,“ the CMS said in the statement.

Remote patient monitoring, as defined in the proposed rule, is “the collection of physiologic data (for example, ECG, blood pressure, glucose monitoring) digitally stored and/or transmitted by the patient and/or caregiver to the [home health agency].”

Bernie Monegain, reporter for HealthcareITNews, notes in his article on the announcement that in 2016, 3.4 million Medicare beneficiaries received home health services.

Data gained from remote patient monitoring should be shared with patients and their providers, according to the CMS. In March, the CMS launched MyHealthEData, which aims to improve patient access and control over their own health information across electronic devices and platforms. Some physician groups have been critical of the initiative, saying it should be up to electronic health record vendors and not physicians to ensure interoperability.

Adoption of remote patient monitoring by home health agencies, and then sharing data with multiple providers, will require innovation and collaboration. It will be interesting to see how quickly – with a possible new financial incentive from Medicare – remote patient monitoring is woven into home health care.

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