55% of ACOs trying on RPM for size: study. But what’s behind the good news? (US)

According to a new ($2,495) study by market intel firm Spyglass Consulting Group, 55 percent of the US Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) included in their survey are deploying or evaluating RPM–remote patient monitoring–as an ‘early symptom management tool’. iHealthBeat’s summary here is excellent (as usual) and contains links to articles in FierceHealthIT and HealthcareITNews. Certainly we should raise at least one cheer, because the RPM is further qualified as ‘telehealth/telemedicine’.

But is ‘RPM adoption poised for robust growth’ as the Spyglass release claims? Not exactly.

Behind the cheerful release lead, the study actually flags three Big Negative Issues for telehealth providers that undercut the good vibes. These are largely quoted directly from the release:

  • 71 percent of organizations are concerned about integrating RPM with existing clinical care processes including EMRs
  • 58 percent are concerned that RPM doesn’t provide adequate support for clinical analytics and decision support tools–both key parts of the ‘evidence-based medicine’ that is the heart of any ACO.
  • More than 50 percent questioned the clinical effectiveness of RPM technology and their ability to generate a positive return on investment (ROI).

Ouch. Sounds like a shin-banging course of hurdles on the Robust Growth Track to this Editor.

Moreover, is this study qualitative masquerading as quantitative? It’s a Nicholas Brothers-worthy tapdance. How many hospitals and health systems are actually using RPM in this study? The findings are derived from over 100 interviews of individuals working in organizations ranging from health systems to payers. Does this represent 25, 50, 100 ACOs? Undisclosed. Is this a representative number? Unknown. A subsidiary point is not all the ACOs are actually ACOs: some are in progress (a long and winding road). How many?

But for directional purposes, it points to two conjoined things: a willingness (desperation?) to try RPM despite significant and underlying skepticism. The problems that can hold telehealth back from genuine acceptance, real helping of patients and real profitability are still plain to see. Your Editor’s bottle of Pol Roger remains on ice, unfortunately. 

Related: Perhaps determining ROI is not that far off. A web-based analytic tool has been developed by Partners HealthCare’s Center for Connected Health and the Center for Technology and Aging (CTA) in collaboration with the California HealthCare Foundation (publisher of iHealthBeat). The ROI Tool will be used for heart disease, and was originally developed for an IVR-based program to support COPD patients. HealthcareITNews

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