CMS Administrator Seema Verma presses for remote monitoring of patients

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is promoting the idea of paying home health agencies for monitoring patients remotely.

Remote monitoring enables the collection of patients’ health data, such as vital signs, weight, blood pressure, blood sugar, blood oxygen levels, heart rate and electrocardiogram readings.

In a statement Monday, CMS Administrator Seema Verma said more use of remote monitoring would allow doctors more time with their patients. At the same time, home health agencies would be able to leverage innovation to drive better results.

CMS proposes the cost of remote patient monitoring to be included as an allowable administrative cost.

"This will allow home health agency payment to reflect their use of innovative technology," said Verma.

In the new proposal, CMS aims to "address that disparity to make sure home health agencies can leverage innovation to provide state-of-the-art care," she said. 

Verma also released the home health proposed payment rules for 2019 and 2020 and asserted that redesign of the home health payment system would encourage value over volume. 

Moreover, she added, "it removes incentives to provide unnecessary care."

In 2016, about 3.4 million Medicare beneficiaries received home health services. The program spent about $18.1 billion on home healthcare services and more than 12,200 agencies participated in Medicare, according to the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission.

Studies show remote patient monitoring results and more live-time data sharing can lead to more targeted care and better health outcomes.

The rule also outlines a new pay model for home health services which was called for in the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018.

The current system pays for 60-day episodes of care and also sets payment on the number of therapy visits a patient receives. The new Patient-Driven Groupings Model will no longer count therapy sessions and will pay for 30-day periods of care.

CMS is proposing a 2.1 percent – or $400 million increase – in Medicare payments for home health agencies, as opposed to last year’s 0.4 percent or $80 million cut.

As Verma sees it, the new structure would move Medicare towards a more value-based payment system while also reducing the administrative burden on home health agencies. The new model would launch Jan. 1, 2020, if approved. 

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