In the face of this growing healthcare demand, the supply of medical generalists has been consistently trailing the supply of specialists. By 2030, a study from the Association of American Medical Colleges estimates a shortfall of between 14,800 and 49,300 primary care physicians, as well as a shortage in non-primary care specialties of between 33,800 and 72,700 physicians.
Compacting this issue, the U.S. population is estimated to grow nearly 11 percent by 2030, with those age 65 and older increasing by 50 percent. As physicians begin to retire too, this problem will be exacerbated.
While digital technology has been positively impacting access to healthcare services for quite some time, efficiencies, such as virtual care, need to be implemented widely in order to address the impending physician shortage, and maximize the delivery of quality care.
This implementation will be somewhat natural as patient access and services continue to evolve from live voice interactions to leveraging digital solutions. Several healthcare providers have made this step toward virtual care already, and are showing strong results for patient satisfaction.
A virtual visit pilot program conducted by Brigham and Women’s Hospital found a 97 percent satisfaction rate among patients with access to these new communications and care options, with 74 percent stating “that the interaction actually improved their relationship with their provider.” They also found that 87 percent of patients said they would have needed to come into the office to see a provider face to face if it weren’t for their virtual visit.
Kaiser Permanente Northern California (KPNC) have a similar offering, providing a suite of apps enabling members to exchange secure messages with their clinicians, create appointments, refill prescriptions, and view their lab results and medical records. As a result, the number of virtual visits has tripled to 10.5 million over last six years.
At Valley Health, a tele-ICU has provided a viable solution to reduce mortality rates. During the first year of its implementation, the technology helped save 125 lives, reduce ICU length of stay by 34 percent, and also reduce the sepsis mortality rate.
These examples show how virtual care can aid patients for when they first need help, but the care journey does not stop there. It continues with prescriptions, labs, imaging, and referrals to other care providers. In these instances, virtual care can be used as a follow-up and check-in tool so that patients no longer need to visit their physician in-person, they can quickly interact with them from the comfort of home.
By Jean Turgeon, vice president and chief technologist, Avaya.
By 2020, healthcare spending around the globe is expected to reach $8.7 trillion, and as part of this spend, healthcare providers are looking to digitally transform by innovating legacy processes and driving better patient experiences. With recent advances in customer-relationship management (CRM), and electronic health record (EHR) technology, providers have an opportunity to significantly update communication channels for patients to reach them.
For patients, the first point of contact with a hospital is essential, whether they’re seeking assistance for a serious health risk or checking in with a doctor. Communications infrastructure plays an integral role in the delivery of this care. By utilizing popular technologies already in patients’ hands, such as smartphones, social media and instant messaging, providers can easily contact patients and offer support above and beyond the traditional telephony services offered. Beyond this, providers can implement AI to connect these channels and create a holistic profile for patients – seeing where and when they reach out for support, and mapping resources to fulfill these needs.
This connected health approach, creates efficiencies by pooling and analyzing data that is beneficial to both healthcare providers and patients. For instance, AI can be used to quickly match appointments for patients with specialists or doctors who have office hours that best align with their schedule. The benefits of this are two-fold, first in time-savings, second in literal savings, as every missed appointment or open time slot averages $200 lost for the healthcare provider.
In addition, third-party applications can be integrated and used to create a custom service that aggregates data and populates a profile for the patient, including financial information, insurance details, demographics, and medical history into the EHR system. By connecting data-sets, and taking the administrative tasks away from hospital staff, AI elevates burdens and streamlines the appointment and admission process. This intuitive profile building, and patient-physician matching can extend to critical situations, such as an ER visit.
Using connected communication solutions, an ER physician can automatically trigger messages to key personnel when admitting a patient, just by placing an order in the EHR system. For instance, a bed placement specialist will be alerted of the patient-need, and can determine if a bed is available. Or, a message can be sent to the transport team to collect and guide the patient.
Moving beyond the check-in and doctor assignment process, patient alarms and bedside requests can be advanced beyond the simple “click-and-wait” approach of many healthcare providers. Automated workflows combined with AI-enable technology, such as speech enabled self-services, can be used bedside to ensure patient requests are routed efficiently to the appropriate hospital staff. In practice this will mean fewer delayed treatments, and greater patient safety and satisfaction. Rather than the on-call medical staff being alerted to the bedside for a pillow request, a smart workflow could alert hospitality staff to deliver a pillow to the room and eliminate the need to go back and forth. Not only would this stop physicians having to relay messages to other team members, slowing the speed of assistance, it will ensure that appropriate staff are tapped for appropriate patient-needs – streamlining workflows and efficiency.