By Brian Slusser, CEO and co-founder, Health In Motion Network.
In 2020, much in our daily lives can be accomplished virtually. From clothes shopping to ordering groceries, there is a growing desire to accomplish important tasks remotely, allowing individuals to save time and effort on fewer in-person trips.
But with so much technology available, why does healthcare feel like it’s lagged behind?
Traditional telemedicine — typically involving phone calls and occasionally video chats with providers — has helped allow individuals to contact their doctors remotely, which can be a tool for both providers and their patients. The utility of telemedicine, however, has its limits, and it’s crucial for both healthcare professionals and average consumers to understand those limitations and move toward a better method.
That better method is represented by virtual health, a new way of thinking about remote doctor visits that combines the benefits of traditional, in-person doctor visits with the convenience and accessibility of telemedicine by establishing a virtual health hub that can accomplish nearly everything that a traditional visit can. This model involves providers on both sides of the visit, known as a “tele-presenter” model.
As a new decade begins, healthcare needs should be addressed through the innovative technology that drives much of our life. And with the correct shift in emphasis, virtual health can help improve healthcare for people who need it.
Here are three ways virtual health and telemedicine differ, and why the disruptive new platform is worth embracing:
Accurate, Detailed Visits
For the sake of a patient’s wellbeing, receiving an accurate diagnosis from a healthcare professional is critical. But with many telemedicine strategies, a detailed and accurate assessment can be difficult.
With a simple phone call or video chat, a doctor needs to rely on the patient to self-diagnose and can only ask them questions about their symptoms and how they’re feeling. While this can sometimes be effective, a doctor can’t give their best assessment without being in the room with a patient.
Fortunately, virtual health can bridge that gap by allowing a second professional to help the physician assess and diagnose the patient. In the case of the Health In Motion Network’s virtual health hub at Indian Lake High School — a partnership with Mary Rutan Hospital in Bellefontaine, Ohio — a school nurse is on hand with the patient to help relay information to doctors, providing information that typically needs to come from an in-person meeting.
But virtual health doesn’t just put patients in a room with a professional. Using advanced medical tech, virtual health stations allow doctors to make a real assessment of the patient. Nurses can use instruments with embedded cameras that allow doctors to actually see the inside of a throat or ear, increasing accuracy and allowing the visit to come as close as possible to meeting the same needs that a traditional doctor’s appointment would.
A Streamlined Process
When it comes to a patient’s health, getting in contact with a healthcare professional in a timely and hassle-free manner can make a huge difference, as can the speed with which next steps are taken.
While a traditional telemedicine appointment can seem fast, it may only add steps to a lengthy process. To diagnose many conditions or prescribe certain medications, a typical telemedicine appointment may not be enough. In that likely scenario, a patient would be required to make an additional appointment, spend time and resources to reach a provider in person and have their doctor make the same assessment a second time.
With virtual healthcare, the process is streamlined and nimble. Because a nurse or other healthcare professional can be present to help assess a patient’s condition, more prescriptions and next steps are available to the caregivers, allowing patients to move more quickly to next steps.
In addition to the procedural advantages, a virtual health visit also allows the patient for quicker and more responsive interactions. Looking at a doctor face-to-face allows for better and quicker interactions, making real-time assessments and conversations possible and providing more holistic care.
Improved Healthcare Access
For many patients, a trip to the doctor’s office isn’t as easy as it seems. For a variety of reasons, traveling to meet in-person with a health provider can be a challenging ask for much of the population.
Virtual health helps meet that need, going further than telemedicine to improve access to quality healthcare. For example, the virtual health hub at Indian Lake High School allows patients to access virtual health services from the school rather than making the trip to the hospital.
The district stretches across several miles, which can be a difficult trek without access to transportation, particularly when someone is sick. But by putting the hub at the school, a location kids already have transportation to, sick students have access to care in a building they can reach, minimizing costs and creating a meaningful partnership between the school and hospital. Removing the need for an extra doctor trip, as is often necessary with traditional telemedicine, saves even more time and effort.
Every person deserves access to healthcare, and virtual health can make that sentiment a reality for many who would otherwise have difficulty accessing it.