By Lee Horner, CEO, Synzi.
While telehealth has been around for years, virtual care technology is emerging as a powerful tool that goes beyond the traditional telehealth model. What will it take to reach the tipping point of virtual care adoption?
To become the “next generation” of telehealth, virtual care will need to improve access, availability, application, and acceptance considerations. Virtual care is poised to be embraced by the healthcare ecosystem, helping to optimize satisfaction and outcomes for all.
Timing is everything in critical care situations. Providers need instant access to specialists who can make vital diagnoses and decisions on-demand. Virtual care technology enables specialists to provide an immediate consult via video and ensure that patient questions and emerging conditions are addressed. Remote video-based consults allow a specialist to examine and diagnose the patient in real time, regardless of the specialist’s location. Virtual care will move into the mainstream as more providers (whether at a healthcare facility or home health agency) realize they can obtain timely answers, prevent return trips to the ED, and minimize readmissions. Smaller and rural hospitals will be able to strengthen their role in the community by using virtual care to access offsite, specialized staff. The time-to-treatment will be reduced; providers will not need to waste precious minutes attempting to contact available specialists. And, specialists can provide the needed consult via video, without needing to rush to the patient’s bedside.
Many patients fail to follow up with their provider for post-discharge care. No-shows may result when a patient is unable to leave his/her residence due to a medical condition. Some patients are unable to secure reliable, timely, and/or affordable transportation to a follow-up appointment. Virtual care will improve the standard of care by providing patients with more convenient, comfortable, and cost-effective access to follow-up care. Once out of the hospital or nursing facility, a patient can participate in virtual visits on commodity devices such as tablets and smartphones.
Healthcare organizations typically pilot the use of virtual care in one department, with one use-case or for a specific patient population, before rolling out the technology across a facility, health system, and/or health plan’s member base. Organizations may hesitate to expand virtual care across departments if they anticipate the implementation may be disruptive to their current processes. However, virtual care technology is designed to complement (and even automate) current workflows. Providers jump on the virtual care bandwagon when they realize that the application factors in a patient’s choice of communication devices (e.g., tablet, smartphone, and computer) and language. Because the technology features the ability to include interpreters in a video call and also provide messaging in the patient’s primary/preferred language, more healthcare organizations will accelerate the deployment of virtual care as they can now engage all patients in their care and across any level of connectivity.
Given the immediacy and impact of virtual care, one can expect that it will also drive greater staff satisfaction, retention, and engagement. In this way, healthcare organizations can better achieve the Quadruple Aim, which includes improving provider work/life balance in addition to improving outcomes, increasing engagement, and reducing costs. Zero to minimal down-time is needed for training as a virtual care platform is intuitive to understand, easy to use, and effective. Providers are typically able to use the technology without any training and are able to use the technology anywhere and at any time, enhancing their work/life balance. Additionally, patients are able to engage in their care in a similar manner to how they already engage with family and friends— via video, email, SMS, and text. Optimizing existing workflows will ultimately enhance patient and provider satisfaction with how, when, and where the care is delivered.
The more healthcare facilities, providers, and patients realize that virtual care enhances satisfaction and improves outcomes, the faster the technology will be embraced across the healthcare ecosystem. Exceptional care can be delivered inside and outside of an organization’s four walls if everyone across the continuum actively collaborates to ensure patients receive care that is accessible, available, applicable and widely acceptable.