What Providers Should Know About Remote Blood Pressure Monitoring

Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is an incredibly common condition afflicting nearly half of adults in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, hypertension costs the U.S. healthcare system roughly $131 billion each year. Despite its prevalence in America, only a quarter of patients diagnosed with hypertension have successfully controlled their blood pressure through medication adherence, diet, exercise, and lifestyle changes.

Underlying hypertension can lead to numerous serious complications, including heart attacks, heart failure, strokes, aneurysms, memory loss, and dementia. Hypertension can also impair blood vessels to a lesser degree in the kidneys and eyes.

Many cardiology, internal medicine, and general practices are integrating remote patient monitoring (RPM) technologies into their daily workflows to better manage hypertension and other chronic conditions. With RPM, providers can regularly receive updates from patients in between visits as they check their vitals and evaluate their symptoms.

How Remote Blood Pressure Monitoring Technology Works

Remote blood pressure monitoring uses devices to alert providers in real-time when a patient’s reading moves out of the ideal range. Patients use these devices on their own based on guidance provided by their care team. As patients check their vitals, digital alerts are transmitted to the provider’s electronic health record system, where a care team can evaluate updates and proactively intervene when readings cause concern.

Why Remote Blood Pressure Monitoring is the “Next Big Frontier in Digital Health”

Remote blood pressure monitoring helps providers review blood pressure changes over time, allowing them to make more data-informed decisions about hypertension management and patient education.

A 2021 meta-analysis of the effects of remote blood pressure monitoring in urban-dwelling patients with hypertension revealed that “remote blood pressure monitoring is effective in reducing blood pressure and in achieving target blood pressure levels.” In addition, the American College of Cardiology and American Heart Association issued a 2017 blood pressure treatment guideline recommending at-home remote blood pressure monitoring alongside drug therapy for patients with hypertension.

Leading specialists in cardiology agree that remote blood pressure management technology holds promise.

“Managing hypertension is the next big frontier in digital health,” Luke Laffin, M.D., Director of the Ambulatory Blood Pressure Monitoring Program at Cleveland Clinic, commented in an article about hypertension management.

Main Benefits of Remote Blood Pressure Monitoring and Remote Patient Monitoring Technologies

Deemed a “silent killer,” uncontrolled high blood pressure is a primary cause of significant damage to the heart, brain, and arteries.  Remote blood pressure monitoring helps providers deliver proactive interventions to prevent potentially fatal conditions in half of American adults.

Detecting Masked Hypertension

While measuring a patient’s blood pressure during an office visit is standard, a normal read in-office doesn’t necessarily indicate consistently healthy blood pressure levels. It’s estimated that 10 – 30% of patients have masked hypertension, according to the European Society of Hypertension. In these cases, patients’ readings in-clinic are normal, however, their blood pressure intermittently reaches dangerous levels without being detected. If the patient takes a reading daily, the provider will then be able to identify a baseline and properly determine triggers, thresholds, and risk factors so that they can play a proactive role in the patient’s overall health.

Real-Time Blood Pressure Data Analysis

Consistent access to readings allows providers to analyze fluctuations in blood pressure levels over time. Providers may ask patients to record their blood pressure daily, weekly, or at a customized schedule to establish a baseline and evaluate ongoing treatment efficacy. 

Other Biometric Monitoring

Hypertension is rarely an isolated condition. Diabetes mellitus, obesity, hyperlipidemia, and coronary heart disease are comorbid conditions often occurring alongside hypertension. Providers may combine other remote patient monitoring devices to examine a patient’s health via multiple variables, including patient weight, blood sugar, heart rate, and electrocardiographic rhythms.

Digital Patient Assessments

Some providers may ask their patients to self-report symptoms to help assess the efficacy and compatibility of antihypertensive interventions. Tracking symptoms via assessment can also help patients become aware of potential health concerns and emerging symptoms between office visits. Digital patient symptom assessments also reinforce patient-provider communication, transparency, and trust by giving patients another way to report health concerns over time. Remote patient monitoring also helps providers improve their MIPS scores and provide data to support value-based care initiatives.

Virtual Communication

In the wake of COVID-19, many providers started offering telehealth options. By eliminating barriers to care, patients in rural and underserved populations have better access to their care team. With remote patient monitoring, providers can discuss health concerns with patients, better prevent diseases, and build stronger relationships that lead to better outcomes. 

What Medical Practices Need to Integrate Remote Blood Pressure Monitoring Technology

Medical practices looking to incorporate remote patient monitoring technology to evaluate hypertension patients will need to invest in new hardware, software, patient education resources, and personnel support:

  • HIPAA-Compliant Remote Patient Monitoring Software: The right software solution will automatically pair remote devices and securely transmit and store data for review by a care team.
  • Patient Monitoring Devices/Applications: The most common RPM devices are blood pressure monitors, weight scales, blood glucose meters, and spirometers. Other device types that are seeing increased RPM use include pulse oximeters and ECG machines.
  • Patient Education Resources: Patients must understand how to properly use their blood pressure cuff and any other biometric technologies provided. Providing digital or take-home resources helps patients review user instructions at their leisure.
  • Care Team Training and Management: Training your care team on new software and devices will help make sure that patient data is regularly reviewed and areas of concern are relayed promptly. 

It’s important to remember that while there are start-up costs with initiating a new telehealth offering, remote patient monitoring is reimbursable at a rate of $120 per month for roughly 20 minutes of care management. If just 50 patients are enrolled in remote patient monitoring, then your practice will make $72,000 per year for 192 hours of labor. Not to mention, properly managing hypertension can save patients, insurance providers, medical practices, and hospitals billions of dollars in costs associated with complications each year.