Remote Patient Monitoring – The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
Remote patient monitoring (RPM), also known as web-based patient observation software (WHM), is a new technology that allows health professionals to remotely monitor healthcare services given to particular patients. For instance, a doctor can use remote patient monitoring system software to observe a patient’s vital signs at a clinic several miles away using no more than a laptop and a wireless headset without the need to make a telephone call or make a physical visit.
The benefit of such monitoring systems is that they enable the doctor and the nurses to provide very fast assistance if something goes wrong with the care a patient is receiving at home. This would otherwise mean additional traveling time for the patient and inconvenience for the doctor as well as the nurses.
However, there are also some issues involved in remote patient monitoring that may cause concern for some doctors and other health workers. One of these issues is unclear readmissions. Unclear readmissions refer to those occasions when a patient either does not have a documented history of illness or does not disclose any health issues to the doctor. Doctors and other medical staff use the information available to them through routine history checks to decide whether to refer the patient for further surveillance or a more detailed examination.
Some concern has been expressed, particularly regarding the possibility of inaccurate diagnoses. According to some studies, up to 20% of all cases involving unclear readmissions may be attributable to misdiagnosis rather than mere chance. Concern has also been expressed over the potential abuse of power, particularly in cases in which providers believe that they can gain more time or an advantage over their nurses or other health workers by manipulating the level of reporting on patients’ health outcomes.
Such providers may then report lower health outcomes or other problems that do not exist. There have also been concerns that providers may impose overly harsh treatment on patients or fail to treat the conditions adequately.
For these reasons, several states have passed laws requiring that providers offering remote patient monitoring provide a comprehensive disclosure of information about patient’s health and other pertinent information. According to Medicare Part B, “some providers may bill Medicare for services that are unnecessary or unsuitable for the patient’s condition.”
This includes claims for certain treatments that are not indicated to treat the illness for which the patient is receiving treatment. Providers are required to perform a complete evaluation and make a correct diagnosis of each eligible patient and explain any of the details associated with such services.
While there are legitimate concerns about remote patient monitoring, it is important
to note that these regulations are not intended to restrict or otherwise interfere with the quality of care provided by qualified practitioners. Properly trained practitioners can provide valuable medical advice and guidance to patients who need such assistance.
Remote monitoring is simply one of the many tools available to health professionals that are designed to make the process of ensuring patients get appropriate medical attention much simpler. As a result, such devices often are used in conjunction with other important forms of primary care. For instance, many patients receive necessary therapy and diagnostic care from cardiologists but are unable to make appointments due to the lack of availability.