AquinaMay 14, 2019

A Case For Offering Patients Virtual-Care Options

A Case For Offering Patients Virtual-Care Options

Growing consumer demand for virtual healthcare services is putting increasing pressure on providers and payers to expand delivery options for on-demand health services, a survey from Accenture found.

The survey included 1,501 consumers who answered questions online. For the 1 in 5 respondents who had received care virtually, the reasons they cited most often for seeking virtual care are: greater convenience than traditional in-person healthcare services (cited by 37%); familiarity using technology to manage their health (34%); and curiosity to try virtual health (34%).

Consumers said they would be more likely to “try virtual” if encouraged by a physician (cited by 44% of respondents) or a healthcare payer (31%).

According to the research, today’s consumers are demanding a combination of in-person and virtual health services. In fact, more than three-quarters (78 percent) of those surveyed said they would be interested in receiving healthcare virtually some or most of the time.

What is virtual health?

Canopy Health defines virtual health care as innovations such as virtual health kiosks and portals, remote consultations, and electronic personal health records. These components work together to allow for easier access to care, such as virtual wellness coaching, remote monitoring, video visits, and online health chats, among several other benefits that we will examine a little more closely below.

Virtual health combines clinical care and professional collaboration through telemedicine, telehealth, and collaboration at-a-distance to connect clinicians, patients, care teams and health professionals to provide health services, support patient self-management and coordinate care across the care continuum.

Specific to physician-patient encounters, virtual health enables live and asynchronous clinical interactions, clinical practice and patient management supported by a wide range of communication, collaboration and cognitive computing technologies along with digital devices and data.

Brigham and Women’s Hospital Experiments in Virtual Health Care

An article in the Harvard Business Review, discussed how Brigham and Women’s Hospital experimented with Virtual Health Care.

They decided to test 3 main scenarios:

  1. Virtual Visits
  2. E-Visits
  3. E-Consults

The author, Adam Licurse, Medical Director for Telehealth at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and the Partners Healthcare Center for Population Health. states:

“Few recent trends in health care delivery have more power to improve population health, patient and provider experience, and hospital business models than virtual care. But for an industry reliant on, and in many ways limited by, brick-and-mortar facilities, this movement will mean significant disruption for providers. As more commercial and state payers offer telehealth coverage and patients come to expect virtual care as standard practice, meeting the demand is quickly becoming clinically and financially imperative.”

For Brigham and Women’s Hospital, the article continues, they decided to start its virtual care strategy with video-based visits for outpatients with chronic diseases. In 2015 they engaged clinical departments whose providers saw patients with conditions requiring frequent follow-up visits and infrequent physical exams, and who lived in Massachusetts but had difficulty coming into the office.

The test showed interesting results, the article states:

“Approximately 600 visits have been conducted virtually through this program to date, freeing up about 200 hours for participating providers to see patients. Among patients surveyed after their initial encounter, 97% were satisfied with the experience and would recommend the program, and 74% felt that the interaction actually improved their relationship with their provider”

If you’re interested in seeing the test results for E-Visits and E-Consults, visit Harvard Business Review.

Benefits of Virtual Health and Telemedicine

As you can see, there are many benefits of Virtual health. For patients and medical practices, the use of telemedicine technology allows patients to receive follow up care and chronic illness management from their own home on the devices they already own and use. This is especially important for those who are homebound or have difficulty arranging travel.

For healthier patients, it reduces travel time and costs and requires less time away from work. As an added benefit, patients are not unnecessarily exposed to other, potentially contagious patients. In short, telemedicine removes many of the barriers preventing people from actively managing their health.

The American Telemedicine Association summed up the main benefits below:

  • Improved Access – Not only does telemedicine improve access to patients but it also allows physicians and health facilities to expand their reach, beyond their own offices. Telemedicine has a unique capacity to increase service to millions of new patients.
  • Cost Efficiencies – Telemedicine has been shown to reduce the cost of healthcare and increase efficiency through better management of chronic diseases, shared health professional staffing, reduced travel times, and fewer or shorter hospital stays.
  • Improved Quality – Studies have consistently shown that the quality of healthcare services delivered via telemedicine are as good those given in traditional in-person consultations.

Virtual Health Care technology is great for providers as well. Its use can help extend clinical services to reach more patients efficiently and profitably. It helps improve health outcomes by increasing patient compliance with follow up and chronic illness management. This strengthens patient relationships without putting additional strain on the medical staff.

There are significant benefits for medical practice, as well. Utilizing virtual health your practice can expand access to care, improve clinical workflows by helping your staff capture each patient’s reason for the call or visit quickly, prioritize care delivery, suggest the best treatment guidelines, and identify additional information resources, and support communication along the care continuum.

What does this mean for my practice?

Responding to the need for better communication, successful care will ultimately be measured by how well health systems and providers are able to capture patient information as data rather than as narrative, store patient information in an organized manner, use patient information to improve medical decision-making, transmit this data to subsequent providers along the patient’s continuum of care, and leverage such data to improve medical care, speed up care delivery, and reduce costs.

If you’re interested in exploring additional working capital solutions to implement Virtual Care into your practice, contact Aquina today to learn how we can help.