healthcaretechoutlook

How to Leverage Virtual Care to Improve Health System Agility

By Ralph C. Derrickson, CEO, Carena

Ralph C. Derrickson, CEO, Carena

The opportunity to use technology, virtual care delivery, in particular, to help address the market challenges of increasing consumerization and the accelerating shift toward value-based care creates enormous potential for health systems who need to adapt to this ever-evolving environment.

On-demand virtual care allows systems to offer services that compliment and improve the accessibility of traditional scheduled, in-facility care. Creating the bridge between on-site care and on-line care opens the landscape for new services that engage patients on their terms and provide opportunities for getting the right care resource to the patient at the right time, which is vital to the system in a fee-for-value reimbursement environment. Virtual care delivery facilitates a team approach to care delivery that is harder to implement in traditional care delivery.

Four ways virtual care improves agility

Virtual care improves access for health systems - In a world where online shopping, mobile banking, and on-demand services are ubiquitous, patients expect healthcare on their terms, when and where they need it. A virtual care option allows systems to attract and retain patients who are trying to get their needs met within the constraints of their insurance coverage. For at-risk patients, virtual care improves access that reduces patient leakage and increases engagement.

Virtual care can and should be integrated with the health system, and can extend the local delivery system - There is evidence that telemedicine offered outside of the health system creates fragmentation and drives up costs. A well implemented virtual clinic provides an intuitive and easy entry point to healthcare that ensures the patient is treated with the highest quality, in the right setting.

"In order to successfully implement telemedicine into your health system, it needs to be a system-wide approach"

Virtual care allows systems to respond differently to unique patient populations -Using technology to create new care delivery models and scale makes it much easier to implement population specific workflows to support care coordination and improve provider adherence to clinical guidelines and standards. Telemedicine also allows systems to respond quickly based on the specific needs of an incident of care. As needs change or evolve, workflows can be adapted quickly to meet the needs of diverse patient populations and payment models.

Virtual care facilitates a team approach for delivering care - By utilizing telemedicine, getti ng the right provider or providers to the point of care is dramatically more efficient and creates an opportunity for patient engagement that is not possible in traditional care delivery models. Virtual care also allows for hospitals and health systems to quickly assemble a care team for just-in-time care coordination.

Tips for telemedicine integration

First, don’t try to do everything at once and transform your hospital or health system overnight. Agility is about incremental changes. Begin by identifying the areas in which telemedicine and the accompanying technology can improve your care delivery and growth. Those areas are likely related to access. Focus on those areas first. When you get those right, then you scale your telemedicine offering and leverage it in new areas of care.

Next, establish metrics for measuring success in those initial areas. Then, build your telemedicine system to achieve those metrics. The narrower the initial telemedicine application and metrics, the better. Keep in mind that it is much easier to expand technology when it works than to try and make up ground when the technology doesn’t work. Know where technology will work best for your system and always ensure it does not diminish quality patient care.

Use technology to maximize the patient experience with more convenience and improved care quality. The emphasis should be placed on improving the patient’s experience—versus the provider’s experience—because giving patients a front door to convenient, high-quality healthcare is what will pay dividends.

In order to successfully implement telemedicine into your health system, it needs to be a system-wide approach. This will help encourage other parts of the health system to want to explore virtual care, which is far more achievable by showing your own success rather than forcing the technology upon the rest of the organization. By educating staff on how virtual care supports initiatives that are provider and patient-centric, they will be more open and more willing to utilize the service as well.