Healthcare leaders have anticipated a shift to digital transformation for some time, however, the pandemic served as a tipping point to drive change sooner than expected. Last year when in-person visits were nearly impossible, digital tools enabled clinicians to deliver patient care without interruption and without unnecessarily exposing staff and caregivers to infection. Initially, the most widely adopted tools were ones that facilitated telehealth and virtual visits.
A recently published JAMA Network Open survey evaluated how health services use in the U.S. changed in March and April of 2020, early on in the pandemic. It surveyed 6.8 million commercially insured individuals and found the use of in-person medical services dropped by 23% in March and 52% in April. At the same time, telemedicine services grew by more than 1000% in March and more than 4000% in April. Even as Covid-19 case numbers decline in the U.S. and in-person visits are an option again, healthcare organizations are doubling down on the benefits of virtual care long-term by investing in technology that goes beyond telehealth to expand their digital care offerings.
However, as organizations add new technology to enhance how they virtually interact with and monitor patients, they must ensure they don’t create friction for clinical teams in the process. Bogging down clinicians and support staff in training or making them constantly log in and out of disparate point systems only steals time from and fragments patient care. And the less-than-great (and sometimes unsecured) experience afforded by mass-market teleconferencing falls short of what patients and providers expect and deserve. A poor clinician or provider experience quickly translates to a poor patient experience.
The forward-thinking innovation and transformation teams I often speak with are desperate for less. Less systems to toggle between. Fewer apps. Reduced downtime training and implementation. Less manual data collection and administrative tasks.
So, what’s the best way for healthcare organizations to achieve digital transformation that drives both patient and provider engagement and satisfaction? By investing in a single, secure platform that easily integrates with an existing EHR and centralizes all aspects of virtual care delivery into a prioritized, workflow-driven clinician interface and an intuitive patient-facing mobile app. This approach reduces headaches for clinicians and care teams by streamlining workflows and standardizing care while delivering a more personalized care journey for patients.
Having a single system that collects and assesses streams of patient health data from multiple sources (including patient-generated, wearable device, and remote patient monitoring inputs) empowers care teams with a more complete picture of a patient’s health. And when that system is integrated with the existing EHR, clinical teams can leverage the bi-directional data exchange to both deliver care and capture encounter and billing data in a single workflow. Moreover, built-in notifications that alert clinicians to out-of-range results or medication non-compliance enable proactive interventions to address problems before they lead to complications or hospitalizations. Leveraging technology to prioritize work lists and reduce manual data tracking allows clinicians not only to practice top-of-license care, but also enables them to see more patients in the same amount of time (i.e., drives operational efficiency).
Another benefit of centralizing virtual care delivery into a single platform is the ability to improve care consistency and case management. This is especially valuable for healthcare organizations looking to standardize care delivery or improve outcomes across key initiatives such as remote patient monitoring, behavioral health, chronic condition and disease management, and patient engagement.
When care teams work from a single system that surfaces both EHR and clinical data, they act on a more complete picture of a patient’s health to monitor care plan progression and adherence, quickly identify care gaps, coordinate referrals with specialists, manage medications, and even deliver (and track) patient education. If the situation warrants a quick video visit with the patient, having chart info “at the ready” from the EHR gives the encounter a more “in-person” feel. Additionally, the use of a patient-facing mobile app lets the patient and their care circle stay abreast of the care plan and track progress toward health goals.
Clearly, there’s a strong case to be made for healthcare organizations to take a “less is more” approach when it comes to investing in virtual care delivery technology. A single, EHR-integrated virtual care platform yields valuable efficiency and standardization improvements that benefit both patients and providers that multiple, disparate technologies just can’t deliver. Along with these benefits, providers are more satisfied, patients are more engaged, and care is improved. It’s a win-win for everyone as we move beyond telehealth and into fully embracing all aspects of the virtual care spectrum.