Rapidly advancing technology has made its presence felt in many branches of the healthcare sector, causing dramatic and drastic changes. Healthcare professionals today rely on technology in many different ways – from maintaining documents and keeping records to optimizing patient out-times and remote treatments. Not to mention the ability to provide more accurate diagnoses.
After years of effort to sort out PR, regulatory, and reimbursement challenges, telemedicine appears to be on the right track of becoming commonplace, ready to represent a sizable portion of care delivery. That near-term future has crafted a new term – virtual hospitals.
Catch the definition, if you can
Now, what does that term actually mean? We’re certainly talking about telemedicine, but that can mean a lot of different things to different people. Is it about iPad chats between doctors and rural patients, or about the implementation of IoT technology for AI-powered remote monitoring? The fact is that even professionals who’ve been involved with connected health technologies for over 20 years are not able to catch the definition by its tail.
The meaning behind “virtual hospital” usually varies by organization. In most cases, it stands for the group of intensive care physicians who are working in a call center environment. There’s a lot of screens and technology involved, but mostly to guide other users in remote places. Many smaller institutions, besides the fact that they’re difficult to reach, also don’t have full-time specialists. Doctors from virtual hospitals can prevent the waste of time by guiding the staff through medical procedures in an emergency or in critical cases.
Other organizations have embraced the concept of virtual hospitals as central freestanding facilities staffed with healthcare professionals. The best-known example of this concept is the St.Louis-based Mercy Virtual Care Center, opened in 2015 and labeled as the first virtual hospital. Their aim is to reduce the time it takes patients to meet their healthcare providers, but also to eliminate the need for very sick patients to come into hospitals frequently.
Efficient access across the globe
The term ?virtual? may not be the best pick since it sounds like it’s not real, while the provided care is very real. The point is that clinicians can be located anywhere across the globe. Although almost none of them dub themselves as a virtual hospital, around 65% of U.S. hospitals connect patients and practitioners remotely.
On the other hand, a recent survey carried out in Australia has shown that nearly 50% would never visit a virtual hospital. And this is not just because they have Medicare – it’s also about the lack of knowledge on the topic, resulting in the fear that they won’t get the same quality of care as an in-office visit.
To spread across the globe, it’s obvious that this puzzling term needs to be pinned down and explained. So, what does it all boil down to? Its core value is about two things — access and efficiency, and they need to work together.