Remote Therapeutic Monitoring for Physical Therapy
The healthcare system is evolving to offer more services virtually, and that extends to physical therapy. The 2023 updated Medicare rules from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) include changes that expand Remote Therapeutic Monitoring (RTM) treatment options.
Recently on the Grow Your Practice Podcast, Chad Madden interviewed Practice Manager Brad Saunders about his experience rolling out Remote Therapeutic Monitoring (RTM) in his practice. Watch the episode to learn the details of Brad’s experience with RTM:
Most of the recent changes in CMS guidelines (including a 4.4% reimbursement cut) are largely viewed as detrimental to physical therapists. However, the addition of Remote Therapeutic Monitoring (RTM) codes offers positive opportunities for physical therapists to add new revenue streams and improve the patient experience. Yet it is still relatively new, and practice owners are looking to understand how to adapt their practice to offer RTM services.
Continue reading to learn:
- What is Remote Therapeutic Monitoring?
- What RTM codes can physical therapists use?
- The benefits of offering RTM services
- One practice manager’s experience rolling out RTM across 10 practice locations
- 7 steps for rolling out Remote Therapeutic Monitoring in your clinic
What is Remote Therapeutic Monitoring?
Remote Therapeutic Monitoring is a way to contact, communicate, and monitor patients remotely outside of the clinic setting. It typically leverages the use of medical devices, apps, or online tools to monitor a patient’s progress using on-physiological data. RTM supplements in-person visits with follow-up conducted remotely via phone call or two-way audio-visual communication.
It has become popular since updates to CMS guidelines have made it an affordable offering to patients that reimburses therapists well. There are a variety of vendors and startups that offer apps, online tracking and other ways to communicate with and monitor patients remotely.
Imagine one of your patients has a home exercise program to treat back pain— they document and track their progress through your RTM app. One day they report increased pain. You can provide feedback remotely on adjusting the exercises to meet that particular need.
Everything is transparent between you and the patient. You log the days and times you interact with the patient. At the end of the month, you can bill out the care they received.
Not only does this provide more revenue and growth to your clinic, but it also provides increased flexibility and treatment options for your patients.
Remote Therapeutic Monitoring (RTM) Codes for Physical Therapists
According to a recent webinar where the CEO of Billing & Clinical Management Services shared 2023 Medicare changes, these RTM codes are payable for 2023:
- 98980 Qualified Healthcare Provider (QHP) interactive session 1st 20’; billed at
the end of the calendar month
- 98981 QHP interactive session each additional 20’; billed at the end of the
- 98975 Initial set-up and patient education
- 98976 Device/supply-monitoring &/or alerts every 30 days Respiratory System
- 98977 Device/supply-monitoring &/or alerts every 30 days Musculoskeletal
Important things to know about each code include:
- Codes 98980-98981 cannot be billed for services < 20 minutes
- Codes 98975, 98976 and 98977 can only be billed if the device used is
defined by the FDA as medical device; it does not require specific FDA
- Codes 98975, 98976, and 98977 will not be paid unless monitoring is ≥ 16
- PTA/OTA Payment Differential applies only to 98975, 98980, & 98981
All therapy licensees may provide RTM services, but CMS did not stipulate the
supervision level for assistants
Remote Therapeutic Monitoring (RTM) Benefits
Remote Therapeutic Monitoring offers all parties new opportunities and options. The key incentive for therapists is the ability to create a new revenue stream to augment your existing services. Other benefits include:
1. Create new revenue streams
RTM codes give you more services you can get paid to treat through Medicare and other payers. As Medicare cuts continue, RTM offers an important measure you can take to retain and grow revenue.
Additionally, therapists can see more patients when they meet with some remotely.
2. Create flexible options
Remote therapeutic monitoring was initially created largely in response to the pandemic. When patients can meet virtually, the risk of spreading disease goes down. But there are other benefits to meeting remotely besides disease prevention.
Patients are busy. They work, travel, or don’t like driving to the clinic more than they have to. Remote Therapeutic Monitoring gives them more control over how they receive care.
Perhaps a patient decides to vacation for a few weeks. Or, a patient works so many hours and wants to spend their little free time at home. Now they can receive care remotely.
Flexible options open up more opportunities for patients and for therapists. This flexibility becomes a value add for your clinic that makes you more attractive to prospective patients.
3. Offer enhanced care
With RTM, patients feel a sense of security, and closeness with your care, improving the therapeutic experience. That’s because you can offer real-time responses to any questions or issues that arise. So even though you’re communicating remotely, you can provide more consistent care.
Physical therapists can use the data collected to give them your best care and direction. For example, as they adjust exercises after communicating with a therapist on an app, they can experience progress faster.
4. Strengthen accountability
If patients aren’t motivated to heal, it will be impossible to see improvement. That’s why a therapist needs to encourage their patients and uplift them as they work to reach their goals.
RTM offers accountability. Physical therapists and patients have clear data that tracks exercises and follow-through.
5. Increase billable hours
Since a good RTM app or software can track and log hours, clinics can bill for more time spent on care outside of the clinic. With remote care, therapists are not limited to time and location compared to a physical location.
Physical therapists can provide documentation and transparent information on the care they provide.
6. Offer more affordable options
Not everyone can afford the amount of care they prefer. However, patients can now overcome many of these barriers, whether it’s an insurance limitation, financial, or an issue of time.
RTM offers affordable and convenient options for patients. Therapists can increase accessibility, offering more care to more patients. As a result, they open their clinic to more billable hours and impact the community.
One Practice Manager’s Experience with Remote Therapeutic Monitoring (RTM)
When Brad decided to implement Remote Therapeutic Monitoring this year, at first he didn’t where how to start. It was fairly new, but he knew he wanted to do it after CMS guideline changes.
He said, “…we started in the springtime to investigate some different options… [for] an interactive communication with the patient after they leave the clinic.”
He led the charge to beta test 3 companies for RTM. Two were through an app and one was an online tool. An important factor he was looking for was ease of access for the therapist, to avoid overburdening staff.
With 90 team members across ten sites, he knew this would be a significant shift for everyone. He wanted to be able to offer RTM without making it taxing on the the therapists. He knew the benefits would outweigh the initial transition if he could find the right tools.
One option he found compelling had a special wearable device for patients that can track exercises and movements. But with associated costs, time, and logistics that come with a unique device, he shifted to something that fits his practice better.
Brad hired a licensed clinician remotely to support RTM service calls and two-way visual audio communication through the app. She ensures patients are compliant and she reports back to the clinic.
Since then, he has rolled it out to all 10 of his practice locations. A majority of patients, about seven out of ten, now utilize RTM care. It brings more clinic revenue, an improved patient experience, and helps grow the practice.
Through small steps, Brad and his team have used RTM to provide the physical therapy of tomorrow.
7 Steps for Rolling Out Remote Therapeutic Monitoring (RTM) in Your Clinic
Remote Therapeutic Monitoring is in an early stage within our field. However, if you adopt it now, you’ll gain a first-mover advantage and be able to increase revenue while providing more care and options to your patients.
That being said, rolling out RTM requires some creativity and research. Here are 6 steps to take to roll out Remote Therapeutic Monitoring in your practice.
1. Collect info from your staff and patients
As you’re researching RTM technology options, work with your staff to identify the criteria that will work best for your team. Ask questions, such as: Should you communicate on one app? What should you track? How often should you communicate, and with what boundaries? Write down a list of these questions and answers to identify the right app when it’s time to look.
Research what your patients need. What are their most common concerns? What is the popular positive and negative feedback you receive for the clinic? Develop an RTM program that can address these gaps.
2. Is the program user-friendly?
Ensure you pick something your patients can navigate easily and get started without a steep learning curve.
The app should also be enjoyable to use. If there’s a lot of friction involved, users won’t spend too much time on it and will avoid using it again.
3. What languages do your patients speak?
RTM is a valuable care to add to your clinic because it provides therapy to more people. Whether it’s because of cost or time restraints, patients can choose your practice because it fits their needs.
If your RTM only serves those who speak English, you can’t help others who speak another popular language in your region.
If there are two contenders and one app offers other languages, you can care for more of your patients.
4. Do you need special devices?
Can the patients download it on their phones? If they can, is it available on most phones? Research and pick the app that provides service to most patients.
Phone apps offer many advantages, like using already-existing wearables. Imagine if your patients could use their smartwatches or phones to track the needed data.
If you choose a particular wearable, consider the additional costs and management. If your clinic decides to purchase devices, it also involves patients returning them on time if they’ve ended their care.
5. How will you make it transparent?
Since RTM is part of your care and, therefore, part of billing, everything should be documented and trackable.
Great RTM software gives you the tools to document your care. When patients see the record, they can reference interactions. You can provide a more positive experience when patients visit a tangible logbook of what you’ve provided.
6. How does it fit with your billing?
Remote Therapeutic Monitoring is another revenue source that can grow your practice. Analyze your current organizational model, like how you bill and your primary sources of revenue.
Then, find the best pricing structure for your RTM. Ensure you review insurance requirements and consult your billing company for the best strategy.
Afterward, pick a few apps that fit your model. Ask for demos and test each app out. Be very specific and ask any questions or scenarios that come to mind. It’s the best way to get a feel for the apps before you commit.
7. Market your new RTM services
Once you implement RTM, you’ll want to spread the word to drive patient visits.
Adding new services is a great way to increase patient visits. Run marketing campaigns that promote your new services to past, present, and prospective patients.
The Growth Advantage
Those who adopt new technologies will always be at the forefront of innovation. When a clinic leads the charge, they reap the rewards. Patients spread the word about your care. And through word-of-mouth, you can grow in your region.
Not only can your practice thrive because of high satisfaction, but also from additional revenue streams. Remote Therapeutic Monitoring is an exciting method of care that benefits everyone.
RTM monitors non-physiological data as therapists communicate with and monitor patients outside of the clinic.
The care offers many benefits, like more billable hours, remote team possibilities, better data to provide the best care, and increased patient visits. Physical therapists have more information to provide real-time guidance to their patients. And their patients benefit from direct access to their clinic from the comfort of their homes.
As clinics pursue Remote Therapeutic Monitoring, they can research the best apps and find one that fits their needs.
Once you launch RTM, use a patient demand system to easily market your new services.
Want to start generating consistent patient visits today? Learn how Breakthrough’s Patient Demand System makes physical therapy marketing easy.