Last week we delved deeply into the burgeoning field of telehealth, focusing primarily on telephone interactions between clinicians and patients. There’s another, even more technologically advanced solution under the umbrella of telehealth, however: virtual medicine.
Direct-to-consumer virtual care delivers high-quality clinical care to health consumers and concurrently increases the geographic reach of a health network, hospital, medical group, or physician practice.
Implementation of a virtual care model, however, isn’t like flipping a light switch; it requires intentional design and collaboration between clinicians, IT, and patient experience professionals to meet health consumers where they already are.
Historically, healthcare providers would treat a patient and send their images, radiology reports, dermatology, reports, pathology reports, etc., electronically to each subsequent provider along the continuum of care. Not only did all of these “touches” increase the chance for error or mishandling, but health IT systems are woefully ill-equipped to transmit, receive, and store data from various electronic health records, hindering the physician from administering care and delivering poor patient experiences and clinical outcomes.
With virtual medicine, however, the future is bright. Patients will be have the ability to consult with their physicians in real-time. In an era where primary care physicians are in high demand, virtual care can expand the reach of those physicians geographically. Virtual medicine also offers an alternative to the explosive growth of less expensive alternatives, such as retail health, while additionally broadening convenience for the health consumer at a lower price point. Finally, virtual care helps health networks maximize healthcare reform incentives via utilization management, cost control, and improved patient access.
What health networks fail to grasp is that health consumers are already engaging with virtual platforms; however, these same health consumers simply aren’t using available technology to manage their healthcare needs, in large part because health networks haven’t established the IT infrastructure to support it.
Millennials, now the largest living generation, said they would switch healthcare providers for better online access (59%). The critical key here is age: you want to capture as much of a patient’s lifetime value as possible: $250 thousand per person, approximately. Even Baby Boomers said they would switch providers for better online access (29%). This generation represents the lion’s share of healthcare spending in the United States, and virtual medicine is ideally positioned to meet their needs should they have limited mobility, an inability to drive, etc.
The shift from fee-for-service to fee-for-value creates a mandate for healthcare providers to execute new strategies for engaging patients, especially when you consider that patient satisfaction is becoming a component of reimbursement, which is drying up as healthcare costs soar.
Virtual medicine not only empowers a health network with the technological tools to capture of its geographic patient population, but virtual medicine has proven to deliver higher patient satisfaction scores than the traditional fee-for-service model.
Has your health network, hospital, or medical practice created or implemented a virtual health strategy? Share in the comments!