Editor's Note

A Trend Takes Root

Remote patient monitoring will soon become a permanent fixture in portable oxygen care.

When it comes to judging the currents of an industry, there’s an old journalism expression that serves as a pretty reliable guide: once is a fluke, twice is a coincidence, and three times is a trend. Based on that truism, I feel confident in writing that remote patient monitoring is here to stay for portable oxygen providers and patients.

HME Business has covered remote monitoring since its beginnings in sleep therapy and we have watched it mature into a technology, care and business landscape that has lets providers become indispensable stakeholders in the sleep therapy care continuum. Instead of simply providing equipment, sleep therapy providers now give their referral partners critical information on patients’ therapy compliance and health status.

And they’re providing this data on a daily basis. If a patient is repeatedly suffering an OSA-related event at certain times of the night, the referral can work with the HME to tweak that patients’ care to improve the therapy and optimize results. Moreover, if the patients are invested enough in their own care, they will be part of the process and proactively use that information to better self-manage their own care.

A Crucial Role

That granular level of care that sleep providers confer to their referral partners is critical in today’s reimbursement environment. Payers are increasingly tying their reimbursement to results. At the risk of being trite, they want to see outcomes before they cut a check, and remote monitoring systems allow HMEs to give their referral partners the kind of data that helps them not only improve outcomes, but demonstrate those outcomes.

Shortly after remote patient monitoring became an essential element of sleep therapy, the technology found its way into diabetes care management. It has quickly become commonplace for glucometers to connect with apps on users’ smart phones. Patients can use those apps to better manage their care, and the data is shared securely via management with physicians. Using those systems, physicians can quickly identify and attend to the patients having the most immediate or pronounced problems. For doctors tending to multiple diabetes patients, this is a boon.

Manufacturer Momentum

Now the trend has come to portable oxygen — and I underscore the word trend. It’s not a fluke. It’s not a coincidence. It’s a trend, and it’s here to stay. I don’t even feel like I’m going out on a limb to say it, because, as you can read in this month’s piece on remote patient monitoring “Getting the Whole Picture” (starting on page 21), there are now several oxygen equipment manufacturers that have integrated remote monitoring capabilities into their oxygen devices. Manufacturers don’t invest that kind of time and money unless they feel they’re making a sound decision.

Right now, the technology is more at the “fleet management” stage. Providers can see their devices out in the field; they can geolocate them; they can see if patients are taking them out and using them; they can get alerted to faults; and troubleshoot problems remotely. However, we are already starting to see patient usage data points, such as how long the devices are being run and at what setting. We will see more portable oxygen devices add these capabilities in the near term, and those devices will soon report a deeper level of patient compliance and performance data.

This is where healthcare as a whole is going. Last month, I wrote about why providers need to ask fundamental questions about the role they play in post-acute care. Remote patient monitoring is a key example of this: an oxygen provider is delivering the data that helps their referral partners not only improve their patients’ care, but enhance and reinforce their funding relationships. The HME provider becomes a lynchpin player for everyone in the care continuum.

If anything, while remote patient monitoring might feel like a sea change to oxygen providers, it is a micro trend that is illustrating a macro trend. Reimbursement will continue to become even more outcomes-oriented, and this is yet another example of how HME providers will find themselves in a crucial position in the post-acute care market if they play their cards right.

This article originally appeared in the March 2018 issue of HME Business.

About the Author

David Kopf is the Publisher HME Business, DME Pharmacy and Mobility Management magazines. He was Executive Editor of HME Business and DME Pharmacy from 2008 to 2023. Follow him on LinkedIn at linkedin.com/in/dkopf/ and on Twitter at @postacutenews.

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