Remote Therapeutic Monitoring (RTM) | Quiet Transformation in Physical Therapy
What?s in a number? That which we call a CPT code. A lot as it turns out. CPT codes are what physical therapists use to bill payers for their services. Without the right CPT code, no payer billing is possible. Therefore when new CPT codes are introduced they get noticed and make an impact. And if the codes could lead to new behavior and new services by providers, the result could be transformative. Such is the case with the new CPT codes for remote therapeutic monitoring, the five RTM codes that relate to speech-language, occupational, and physical therapy. That care cannot take place just within the four walls of the clinic has been well known. Enter remote patient monitoring as an important component of care programs. The CMS appears to have been backing this cause. In 2020, the CMS finalized new policies for remote physiologic monitoring (RPM) that would be reimbursable under the Medicare program. This was followed by coverage for ‘remote therapeutic monitoring’ services in the 2022 Physician Fee Schedule. On January 1, 2022, CMS approved five new CPT codes for Remote Therapeutic Monitoring (98975, 98976, 98977, 98980, 98981). These are different from codes for remote physiologic monitoring in that they are designed to track non-physiologic data related to the musculoskeletal or respiratory system. They also include monitoring the adherence and response to therapy, including home exercise program compliance.
The New RTM CodesHere is a quick summary of the new RTM codes:
- CPT code 98975 covers the initial set-up and patient education for remote therapeutic monitoring equipment, such as for the respiratory or musculoskeletal system.
- CPT code 98976 covers the remote monitoring of a patient’s respiratory system and/or therapy response. The devices used for this purpose are supplied with scheduled recordings and/or programmed alerts that are transmitted to the monitoring system.
- CPT code 98977: This code is for remote monitoring of a patient’s musculoskeletal system status, therapy adherence, and therapy response. The patient’s devices are supplied with regular recordings and/or programmed alerts that are transmitted to the monitoring system.
- CPT Codes 98976 and 98977 are nearly identical except that 98976 is for monitoring respiratory system and 98977 is for monitoring the musculoskeletal system. Most PTs/OTs are likely to use 98977. Medicare allows patients to provide self-reported data that can be collected and transmitted via Software as a Medical Device.
- CPT code 98980 is for remote therapeutic monitoring treatment management services that require at least one interactive communication with the patient or caregiver per month, it includes the first 20 minutes of communication time.
- CPT code 98981 covers remote therapeutic monitoring treatment management services that require at least one interactive communication with the patient or caregiver per month, it is for each additional 20 minutes.
- The last two CPT Codes 98980 and 98981 involve managing the RTM data. Medicare will reimburse therapists for monitoring and communicating with patients about remotely collected data.
Impetus For Remote CareThese codes are transformative because they:
- Encourage therapists to embrace remote care and bill Medicare for it.
- Increase patient engagement and adherence to plans of care (lowering self-discharge rates).
- Reward therapists for implementing a comprehensive approach to care in clinic and off clinic.
- Motivate a move to a continuous care paradigm that should help both patients and providers.
- Increase revenue for PT practices by inducing new pathways to digitally serve patients.