Earlier this month we covered some of the most frequently asked questions regarding new remote therapeutic monitoring (RTM) codes and what they mean for PTs. And while we hope you’re now better acquainted with the subject, there is one topic that bears further examination: the benefits of RTM for physical therapists and occupational therapists.
It might stand as something of an outlier given recent trends, but the decision by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to introduce new RTM codes for Medicare reimbursement in the 2022 final rule actually benefits PTs, OTs, their patients, and the rehab industry moving forward. Here’s how you can use the RTM codes in evaluation and management to improve patient outcomes—and boost your clinic’s revenue.
RTM lets you collect better patient data.
Something that’s true across many industries—health care included—is that technology can collect better, more accurate data, which in turn leads to better patient results. While RTM is relatively new, healthcare providers have already seen how the additional data collected through remote patient monitoring or remote physiological monitoring (RPM) and the use of RPM codes has improved patient outcomes and experience as well as medication adherence—and there is every reason to believe that RTM can do the same for PTs and OTs.
The addition of RTM codes opens the door for qualified healthcare professionals to use monitoring devices and apps for recording non-physiologic data. More RTM data from patients gives clinicians more to work with in evaluating patient care and therapy response, allowing them to adjust treatment plans as necessary and share relevant information with physicians. With a better understanding of what works and what doesn’t, changes to plans of care can be better informed and ultimately more effective.
More broadly, better data can also help PTs make the case for themselves and for PT as a valuable part of health care. Tracking outcomes is a crucial part of any PT clinic, both to provide evidence-based care and to advocate for the efficacy of physical therapy. It’s not enough to state loudly and repeatedly that PT is vital; to affect real changes within CMS and other payers, PTs need to collect the hard data that shows the positive effects of RTM services in patient outcomes, and bill for the corresponding RTM codes.
Monitoring devices can improve patients’ adherence to home exercise plans.
We all know how hard it can be to commit to something we might not want to do and to give it our full effort. And every PT has experienced the struggle with therapy adherence when trying to get their patients to stick with their home exercise programs (HEPs). With remote therapeutic monitoring and the associated medical devices, PTs now have a leg up when it comes to helping patients stick with their treatment outside of their office.
With a monitoring device or smartphone app, patients will have easy access to their HEP as well as a tool for entering their response to treatment and other relevant information. And knowing that someone is checking that information and reaching out to discuss it should serve to push patients towards greater adherence.
New RTM codes also cover the communication related to treatment between PTs and patients over the phone or via chat, and that additional communication is vital to creating more engaged patients. The benefits of an engaged patient are many: they’re more invested in completing their prescribed treatments, and are more likely to bring questions and concerns to their PTs. And committed patients don’t just make a PT’s job easier; patient engagement makes for better outcomes and potentially lower healthcare costs for both patients and payers.
RTM codes can increase your clinic’s revenue.
Obviously, the most important benefit of RTM is the ability for caregivers to meaningfully engage with patients outside of the office, but getting paid for that work is a nice bonus. The addition of RTM codes allows PTs and OTs to start billing for both training on remote monitoring devices and collecting and reviewing data—work that, prior to CMS implementing these codes, many PTs were already doing without reimbursement.
In the face of reimbursement cuts, clinics need to employ strategies to make up for lost revenue—and nothing is more straightforward than providing additional billable services that can help improve patient outcomes.
So how much extra can PTs and OTs expect to bring in? According to Keet Health, the reimbursement for RTM codes in 2022 are:
|98975||Initial Set-up and Patient Education||$19.38|
|98977||Monthly data transmission — musculoskeletal system||$55.72|
|98980||Treatment management services, clinical staff, 20 min.||$50.18|
|98981||Treatment management services, clinical staff, +20 min.||$40.84|
CMS adopting RTM isn’t just about adding devices and apps to the CPT codes; it signals a greater embrace of telehealth and digital health—things that could change PT and OT entirely. Consider how many patients would continue their treatment if they knew they didn’t have to trek to the office for every interaction, or how much outcomes could improve if PTs and OTs had a fuller picture of a patient’s progress. Given the potential benefit of virtual care, PTs and OTs shouldn’t miss the opportunity to invest in RTM for themselves and their patients.