By Heidi West, head of healthcare, Zoom.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, telehealth has emerged as an invaluable part of care delivery. And by all indications, virtual care is here to stay even after the threat of COVID-19 passes — in large part because of consumer demand. In a report by Qualtrics commissioned by Zoom, 61% of respondents in the U.S. who have used video for healthcare said they plan to attend healthcare appointments both virtually and in person in the future.
The key elements are choice and competition. Consumers want to be able to choose how and where they receive care — and that may include retail and direct-to-consumer solutions or their primary care provider. Sometimes an in-person appointment may be preferred or required, and other times, patients want to save time and money by using high-quality telehealth options.
As more healthcare organizations look beyond the pandemic to building long-term telehealth and virtual care solutions, reliability, consistency, and quality are key to driving adoption, building trust, and improving the patient experience. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
Find a solution that integrates into your workflows
When the right technology meets the right application, it becomes nearly invisible to end users. That’s what providers and patients want: a telehealth solution that “just works” and feels as comfortable and intuitive as something they’ve been using for years. The ability to integrate and customize plays a key role in creating that experience.
During the pandemic, I met with many healthcare organizations who stressed that they need their telehealth solution to live in the workflows they use every day.
If your telehealth solution doesn’t sit comfortably in your workflows, it could lead to a variety of issues. If providers need to switch between multiple platforms in their day-to-day work, it could potentially increase time spent on administrative tasks, limit time with patients, and lead to missed appointments and lost revenue. Administrators may find that a parallel workflow duplicates efforts and costs, while an integrated solution could streamline processes and cut down on inefficient spending.
Look for a telehealth solution that has the ability to integrate with your EHR or HIT system, or allows for integration with open platforms through APIs, the latter of which provides flexibility and customization opportunities. A seamless integration enables providers to focus on practicing medicine without fiddling with controls or toggling between platforms.
A focus on innovation and continuous improvement is also crucial for an upleveled patient experience. As the past 18 months have shown, consumer needs and demand can change overnight — a telehealth solution that continues to listen to clients and enhances its offerings to meet the needs of the industry will help you stay ahead of the curve.
Think beyond the clinic
Telemedicine is ushering in a new standard of care around the world, in part because of what happens beyond the initial doctor’s visit. From patient education to population health, virtual care encompasses much more than patient-provider appointments.
For example, a specialist seeing a patient for a chronic condition like diabetes can meet virtually with other members of the patient’s care team, like their primary care doctor, dietitian, social worker, and nursing home staff, to coordinate care and treatment. With virtual meetings, busy providers don’t need to worry about travel time or distance, making scheduling easier.
The patient can connect with a pharmacist over video to learn how to use their new glucose monitor, and with a dietitian to discuss their blood sugar levels. Remote patient monitoring can track patterns and fluctuations in glucose levels, and the patient can have multiple follow-up visits with their specialist to monitor the effectiveness of a new medication regimen — all without leaving home. For many patients managing multiple or chronic conditions, a greater number of touchpoints can improve observation, communication, and ultimately, wellbeing, along the entire continuum of care.
A virtual approach also allows family members to be present at telehealth appointments, even from different cities or states, to ask questions and support the patient’s healthcare journey.
Using a multipurpose video platform also allows for greater connection and information sharing within clinical and administrative settings. Providers can continue their medical education with virtual trainings, certification programs, and conferences. Hospital administrators can convene staff virtually across multiple departments and buildings for routine announcements and emergency communications.
By looking beyond clinical applications for virtual platforms, healthcare providers and organizations can more easily bridge the gap between the clinic and business. With one platform serving both the business and the consumer — and providing the same ubiquitous experience — organizations can foster important relationships with their patients, conveniently coordinate care, and communicate more efficiently than ever.
It all comes down to patient experience
The past year has taught us so much about virtualizing the healthcare industry. Far from a pandemic solution, telehealth and video communications implemented across the continuum of care make healthcare more accessible, convenient, and affordable.
With direct-to-consumer healthcare on the rise, especially for primary care, mental health, urgent care, and chronic disease management, it all comes down to patient and provider experience. Video will continue to play a critical role in fulfilling patient expectations for “wherever, whenever” care that’s convenient and accessible without compromising on quality.