Remote Therapeutic Monitoring in Physical Therapy: 2024 Guide

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Remote Therapeutic Monitoring in Physical Therapy: 2024 Guide

The COVID-19 pandemic forced the healthcare industry to advance into telemedicine almost overnight, and now patient demand is driving those solutions to continuously involve and improve to better meet patient needs. Today, telehealth isn't reserved for isolated or quarantined patients but extended to all patients - many of whom choose remote services because of convenience and comfort.

Data continues to suggest that physical therapists desire the flexibility of remote work while patients desire remote healthcare options. The physical therapy practices that listen and respond to the needs of their therapists and patients - including this desire for remote treatment options - are the practices that will lead in market share in 2024 and beyond. In this case, the wait-and-see approach will leave you forfeiting market share and wishing your practice had adapted its service offerings sooner.

Let's explore how to successfully implement remote therapeutic monitoring in your physical therapy practice.

Main Takeaways from This Article:

  • Remote therapeutic monitoring (RTM) utilizes technology to monitor, communicate with, and treat physical therapy patients remotely, improving adherence and outcomes.
  • The advantages of RTM include increased revenue, enhanced patient access and adherence, improved treatment outcomes, and greater efficiency in therapy practice management.
  • Key challenges in RTM involve addressing technological adaptation, maintaining patient privacy, navigating complex billing processes, ensuring compliance with healthcare regulations, and achieving reliable connectivity for remote services.
  • Implementing RTM successfully requires clear goal communication, secure technology usage, interactive communication, patient education, effective integration with existing systems, and ongoing training and support.

What Is Remote Therapeutic Monitoring in Physical Therapy?

Remote therapeutic monitoring (RTM) refers to the use of technology to communicate with, monitor, and treat patients at a remote location. RTM plays a critical role in physical therapy: it improves patient adherence and patient outcomes, allows therapists to monitor progress more closely between appointments, improves accessibility, and is more convenient, flexible, and cost-effective than in-person physical therapy.

The earliest form of remote physical therapy was referred to as remote patient monitoring, or remote physiologic monitoring (RPM), and involved using medical devices to measure basic patient demographics from a distance between face-to-face appointments. RTM advances that service by measuring non-physiologic data like pain level and adherence to medication regimens, enabling the practice to bill for the full range of services they provide to remote clientele.

Advantages of RTM for PTs

RTM offers numerous advantages for physical therapists, enhancing both the quality of patient care and the operational efficiency of practices. Here's a closer look at how RTM can significantly benefit your physical therapy services:

Revenue Boost

RTM introduces a new revenue stream for physical therapy practices by enabling billing for remote monitoring services. This not only diversifies the income sources but also capitalizes on the growing demand for remote healthcare services, enhancing the financial stability and growth potential of the practice.

Greater Patient Accessibility

RTM significantly expands a practice's reach, allowing therapists to connect with patients who may be in remote locations, have mobility challenges, or face other barriers to in-person visits. This increased accessibility not only broadens the patient base but also ensures that more individuals can receive the care they need, regardless of their physical location.

Improved Patient Adherence and Outcomes

By providing continuous monitoring and support, including home exercise programs, RTM enhances patient engagement and adherence to prescribed therapy regimens. Regular feedback and engagement through RTM tools help patients stay motivated and on track with their treatments, leading to better overall outcomes and faster progress in their rehabilitation.

Elevated Physical Therapist Efficiency

RTM streamlines the therapy process, allowing physical therapists to efficiently monitor and treat multiple patients without the need for constant in-person appointments. This increased efficiency not only improves productivity but also significantly reduces burnout among physical therapists by alleviating the stress of overbooked schedules and repetitive tasks.

Streamlined Care Pathways

RTM offers a structured approach to patient care by allowing therapists to monitor and adjust treatment plans in real-time. Automated care pathways facilitate consistent and personalized care, ensuring each patient's treatment is optimized for their specific needs and progress.

Optimized Practice Scheduling

With RTM, physical therapy practices can better manage their schedules by accommodating remote consultations and check-ins. This flexibility helps in optimizing the appointment calendar, reducing downtime, and increasing the capacity to see more patients, both remotely and in person.

RTM Challenges (and Solutions)

Navigating the implementation of RTM can present several challenges for physical therapists, but with the right strategies and solutions, these hurdles can be effectively overcome. Let's explore some common challenges associated with RTM and practical solutions to address them:

Navigating Tech Adoption in RTM

Challenge: The adoption of RTM technology can be daunting due to the learning curve associated with new software and devices.

Solution: To ease this transition, provide comprehensive training sessions for both staff and patients and choose user-friendly RTM platforms. It's also beneficial to have a dedicated tech support team to assist with any issues that arise.

Solving Patient Privacy Concerns

Challenge: Protecting patient privacy is a significant concern in RTM, given the remote transmission of sensitive health data.

Solution: Ensure all RTM tools are compliant with privacy laws like HIPAA. Implement strong encryption for data transmission and educate patients on how their data is protected, enhancing their trust and confidence in using RTM services.

Overcoming RTM Billing Obstacles

Challenge: Billing for RTM services can be complex, with challenges in coding, insurance claims, and reimbursement.

Solution: Stay updated with the latest billing codes and insurance policies related to RTM. Consider using billing specialists or software that is specifically designed for RTM, which can streamline the billing process and reduce errors.

Addressing RTM Compliance Issues

Challenge: Complying with various healthcare regulations while implementing RTM can be challenging.

Solution: Regularly train staff on compliance requirements and conduct periodic audits to ensure adherence to laws and guidelines. Staying informed about changes in healthcare regulations and seeking guidance from compliance experts can also be helpful.

Ensuring Reliable RTM Connectivity

Challenge: Consistent and reliable internet connectivity is crucial for RTM, but can be a hurdle, especially in areas with poor network coverage.

Solution: Offer solutions like pre-recorded videos or offline capabilities in your RTM software for areas with connectivity issues. Educate patients on the importance of a stable internet connection and provide tips on improving their home network for uninterrupted remote sessions.

RTM CPT Codes and Billing

Effective use of remote therapeutic monitoring codes is vital for physical therapy practices to ensure accurate billing and reimbursement. These AMA-established codes capture the time and resources used in remote monitoring of non-physiological parameters, such as therapy adherence and pain levels.

To navigate the billing aspect of remote therapeutic monitoring effectively, it's important to understand the specific CPT codes for various RTM services:

  • CPT Code 98975: This code is utilized for the initial set-up and patient education on using remote monitoring equipment, essential for initiating RTM services.
  • CPT Code 98976: Employed specifically to monitor respiratory system status, this code covers remote monitoring services for respiratory-related parameters over a 30-day period.
  • CPT Code 98977: Similar to 98976, but focused on the musculoskeletal system, this code is for remote monitoring services that monitor musculoskeletal system status, also for 30 days.
  • CPT Code 98980: This code is designated for remote therapeutic monitoring treatment management services, involving the first 20 minutes of clinical staff/physician/other qualified healthcare professional's time in a calendar month, and includes activities to monitor respiratory or musculoskeletal system status.
  • CPT Code 98981: An extension of 98980, this code is used for each additional 20 minutes of RTM treatment management services within the same calendar month, allowing for extended monitoring and management of either respiratory or musculoskeletal system status.

Accurate coding and documentation are essential for optimizing reimbursement and navigating the billing process, including dealing with insurance companies. Regular training, staying informed about billing changes, and conducting audits are key strategies to maximize insurance reimbursements for RTM services.

RTM Technology and Devices

The integration of RTM in physical therapy is driven by advanced technologies and specialized devices designed to enhance patient care and improve therapy outcomes. These technologies range from wearable sensors that monitor patient movements and progress to sophisticated software platforms enabling seamless communication and data analysis.

Wearable devices play a pivotal role in RTM, offering real-time tracking of patient activities and therapy adherence. They are equipped with sensors that provide valuable data on patient mobility, pain levels, and exercise completion. This therapeutic data is crucial for therapists to make informed decisions about treatment adjustments and effectively monitor patient progress.

Complementing these wearables are comprehensive software solutions, like those provided by Empower EMR, which integrate seamlessly with these devices. These platforms not only gather and store data but also facilitate secure communication between therapists and patients. This integration ensures a streamlined workflow, where data collected from wearables is directly fed into the patient's electronic health records for easy access and analysis.

As RTM technologies continue to evolve, they promise to further revolutionize the field of physical therapy, making care more accessible, efficient, and effective.

How to Implement RTM in Your Practice

Implementing remote therapeutic monitoring treatment is imperative to remain competitive and meet your patient population's needs in 2024. This approach involves several key steps and strategies, each designed to optimize the effectiveness and integration of remote therapeutic monitoring treatment into your practice.

1. Communicate the Goals of RTM to the Patient

When a patient first enters remote therapeutic monitoring, it's essential to clearly communicate the remote therapy process to the patient, including therapy goals, the expected frequency of sessions, and how their progress will be tracked. Be sure to share what you expect from the patient and what they can expect from you to achieve their treatment goals. Aligning expectations early improves patient satisfaction and outcomes.

2. Use Secure Video Conferencing Software for Therapy Sessions

Your existing business video conferencing platform will need a revamp to function as a platform for patient appointments. You must use a secure video conference platform for remote therapy sessions to comply with HIPAA regulations and ensure the privacy and security of patient information. Some video conferencing platforms offer a secure clinical version and a business version. Whatever the solution, take special care to ensure 1) it meets stringent HIPAA guidelines and 2) it's user-friendly for your target demographic.

3. Provide Patients with Clear Instructions on Home Exercises

Physical therapists should provide patients with detailed instructions and demonstrations of exercises they can do at home, along with resources and patient education to help manage their condition(s) at home. Patients need to know the following:

  • How to manage aches and pains
  • Which over-the-counter medications are appropriate to use
  • Which home treatments may help their condition (i.e., ice, elevation, compression, heat)
  • Which restrictions to follow to prevent worsening their injury or condition
  • When to contact their PT

It's also important to share what level of pain or discomfort is acceptable as they complete their home exercise program to prevent further injury and ensure stretches and exercises are productive.

4. Implement Remote Monitoring Tools to Track Progress

Without remote monitoring tools, patients are at high risk of non-compliance and related complications. PTs should use remote monitoring tools like wearables or apps to track progress and ensure patients adhere to treatment plans. This information can be used to adjust treatment plans as needed and report progress to the patient and other healthcare team members. Patients who consistently struggle with adherence may need to move to an in-person treatment model.

5. Utilize RTM CPT Codes

PTs should be familiar with the CPT codes that are used for remote therapeutic monitoring - including the new RTM codes - to ensure they are billing correctly for remote therapy services. This not only ensures compliance with billing regulations but also optimizes your practice's revenue from RTM services.

6. Ensure Data Privacy and Compliance

Incorporating RTM into your practice requires strict adherence to data privacy laws and compliance standards, such as HIPAA. Implement robust security measures for data storage and transmission, and conduct regular staff training to maintain the highest level of patient data confidentiality and legal compliance.

7. Integrate RTM with Electronic Medical Records (EMR)

Effective RTM implementation involves seamless integration with your electronic medical records (EMR) system to ensure consistent and accurate patient data management. This integration facilitates real-time updates and easy access to patient information, enhancing the efficiency of treatment planning and monitoring while maintaining comprehensive patient records.

8. Provide Continuous Training and Support

To ensure the successful adoption and effective use of RTM in your practice, it's crucial to provide continuous training and support to both your staff and patients. Regular educational sessions, updated training materials, and accessible technical support can significantly enhance user proficiency and confidence in utilizing RTM technologies. Additionally, actively seeking and incorporating patient feedback can further tailor RTM technologies to meet individual patient needs and improve overall treatment effectiveness.

The Bottom Line: Embracing RTM in 2024

While remote therapy services were initially critical for treating patients exposed to or diagnosed with COVID-19, offering remote services has become the standard of care. Patients will begin considering whether RTM is offered when they choose a physical therapist. Additionally, RTM improves patient outcomes by offering cost-effective, convenient, flexible treatment with closer patient monitoring to drive adherence to the treatment plan.

PTs who embrace remote therapeutic monitoring will gain an edge over their competitors, improve patient satisfaction, and improve patient outcomes. Mastering the CPT codes assigned to these services is crucial for receiving payment for the services rendered.

When you choose an all-in-one solution like Empower EMR, you get access to everything you need in one place, from a secure video conferencing platform to training on CPT codes and remote monitoring tools - making implementation seamless for your team and your patients. To learn more about the prescriptive, proven implementation of RTM in your practice, request a no-pressure demo with transparent pricing from Empower EMR today.

Remote Therapeutic Monitoring Physical Therapy FAQs

What Is Remote Monitoring Physical Therapy?

Remote monitoring in physical therapy is a method of delivering physical therapy services and care remotely through technology. It involves using digital tools like wearable devices, mobile apps, and online communication platforms to monitor, assess, and treat patients from a distance. Remote monitoring enables physical therapists to track patient progress, provide guidance, and adjust treatment plans without the need for in-person visits. This approach enhances accessibility, convenience, and continuity of care, especially for patients with mobility issues or those living in remote areas.

What Qualifies for RTM?

RTM is designed for monitoring non-physiological data such as therapy adherence, therapy response, and medication adherence. It qualifies in scenarios where patients require monitoring of their therapeutic progress, pain level, or functional status. RTM is particularly beneficial in physical therapy to track patients' rehabilitation progress, including exercise completion and pain levels. RTM qualifies when used as part of a documented therapeutic plan for a patient needing remote monitoring.

What's the Difference Between Remote Patient Monitoring and Remote Therapeutic Monitoring?

Remote patient monitoring (RPM) and remote therapeutic monitoring (RTM) both involve remote monitoring of patients, but they focus on different aspects of care. RPM is primarily concerned with monitoring physiological data, such as blood pressure, heart rate, and blood sugar levels. In contrast, RTM focuses on non-physiological data like therapy adherence, pain level, and functional status. RTM is more aligned with the needs of physical therapy, where monitoring the patient's response to therapy and adherence to prescribed exercises is crucial.

Can Physical Therapists Bill for Remote Patient Monitoring?

Physical therapists traditionally could not bill for remote patient monitoring (RPM) as it mainly pertains to physiologic data monitoring, which is outside the scope of physical therapy practice. However, with the introduction of remote therapeutic monitoring (RTM) codes, physical therapists can now bill for monitoring non-physiological data relevant to their field, like therapy adherence and pain assessment.

Does Medicare Pay for Remote Therapeutic Monitoring?

Yes, Medicare does provide reimbursement for remote therapeutic monitoring (RTM) services. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) have established specific CPT codes for RTM, allowing healthcare providers, including physical therapists, to bill for these services. These codes cover the monitoring of non-physiological parameters, such as therapy adherence and response, which are essential in physical therapy. Providers should ensure compliance with Medicare's billing guidelines and documentation requirements to receive reimbursement for RTM services.

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