Budget cuts and CMS code changes have left hospitals wondering if they should continue to offer EEG monitoring themselves, leading to a rise in remote monitoring for continuous EEG (cEEG) in recent months.
And with the COVID-19 pandemic further taxing hospital resources, remote monitoring for cEEG and even for routine tests may become an even more important piece of the neurological care model. But what does that mean for neurodiagnostic technologists (NDTs)?
An Accelerated Shift to Remote Monitoring
There has already been an increase in remote monitoring for inpatients, particularly for encephalopathies, in the face of the COVID-19 epidemic, according to Petra Davidson, a NDT and remote-monitoring specialist. At the same time, scheduled long-term monitoring procedures, like many other non-essential medical procedures, have been eliminated for the time being.
Davidson says facilities are using in-house staff right now to save money. With the cessation of routine and elective procedures, reimbursement and RVUs are falling. They don’t want to spend on outside services when they have staff in place to do the job, and they need to save money any way they can.
“With that being said, those that already have contracted remote monitoring services are employing those services to monitor the patients with encephalopathies, freeing up their routine staff to do STAT procedures,” Davidson explains.
The question is what happens when the pandemic subsides? Like most areas of telehealth, this temporary shift to remote monitoring, where it exists, serves as a trial run. If it goes well, it’s unlikely it will shift back to the way it was before the novel coronavirus outbreak.
Changing Career Paths for Neurodiagnostic Technologists
For the neurodiagnostic technologist, this brings up a number of questions about what a future career path may look like. Davidson says that NDTs have been preparing for this shift to remote monitoring for the last two decades.
In the past, remote monitoring was primarily used for cEEG. But with the increasing shortage of NDTs, remote monitoring is being used to compensate for that shortage, with even routine studies being performed remotely.
“It is becoming increasingly apparent that remote technologists are able to perform two to three routine studies simultaneously, which increases yield but more importantly places well-trained eyes on that initial study,” Davidson says.
Davidson has also noted increasing interest among NDTs in remote work. They’ve opted to expand their education to prepare themselves with the “skills and knowledge necessary to be part of the remote workforce.” The healthcare landscape will certainly be changed by the global pandemic, and for those NDTs who have been preparing, this challenging time might also present a unique opportunity.
Certainly, career opportunities with organizations that provide remote monitoring will grow as a result of the current shift.
The opportunity for leadership roles for NDTs is potentially more exciting. Someone will have to coordinate what happens in-house with the remote monitoring services. And who is better equipped to oversee the shift to remote monitoring — and then manage it — than those NDTs who have been preparing for the shift all along?
It will take a proactive leader to recognize this opportunity in his or her own institution and turn it into a chance for career growth. For the right NDT, this may be the time to take the next step in your career.
Special thanks to Petra N. Davidson, B.S., R. EEG/EP T., CLTM, FASET, IT Liaison and Clinical Processes Coordinator, and Remote LTM Specialist II with Intranerve Neuroscience. Davidson is a former member of the ASET board of directors.