Digital data exchange is ‘foundational’ part of virtual care
Despite the benefits of virtual care, there’s a risk that technology could interrupt communication; however, new tools can restore dialogues and aid patient engagement.
Physicians saw the COVID-19 pandemic as a disruptive influence to traditional care delivery. Like any disruptive event, they’ve experienced a mix of positives and negatives.
The cataclysmic virus upended traditional healthcare delivery, causing clinicians and patients to rely on digital health technology to support virtual encounters. That’s demonstrated the ability of healthcare to adopt new processes and workflows faster than anyone had expected. However, it’s heaped new pressure on providers and patients alike – while technology has enabled change, it’s also disassociated the relationships, connections, and communications that are so critical to keeping patients happy and on the road to recovery.
“The ability to connect one human to another is going to be foundational."
Increased digital connections, all the while needing more personalized interactions, will be the conflicting challenges for healthcare in the years ahead, says Rodrigo Martinez, MD, chief medical officer for PerfectServe, a technology solution provider.
"At least for the moment, we are really seeing that digital data exchange is going to be a part of virtual care," Martinez says. “The ability to connect one human to another is going to be foundational."
While technology more quickly enabled patient access to care during the pandemic, healthcare organizations now face the challenge of ensuring that it doesn’t create virtual walls that stand in the way of communication – for example, lack of timely communication about changes in health conditions, unanswered questions or dropped handoffs in patient care when inquiries are routed within a practice.
These aren’t just missed opportunities – they could negatively impact patient health and can result in poor patient experiences, Martinez contends.
“Fix those friction points and bring interactions across the care continuum and the care team closer together.”
“We’re all well aware of the literature and evidence around the fact that there are challenges across the continuum of care in communications between patients and clinicians,” he says. “All those handoff points introduce an opportunity for error or missed care, or even just a time lag that can lead to either patient dissatisfactio0n or some sort of event or case issue.”
PerfectServe technology aims to “fix those friction points and bring interactions across the care continuum and the care team closer together,” he adds. It ensures that patient calls or communication are quickly routed to the appropriate clinician, for example, particularly after hours or on weekends, when a patient’s primary care physician may not be available.
These types of connective technology solutions are important so that “health systems and physician group practices are able to optimize the people that they have or the care that they need to provide,” Martinez says. Healthcare organizations need to ensure that communication solutions “ensure that not a minute of a doctor’s time is wasted and that they have the right people with the right skill sets available to provide the right care to patients."
Improving inquiry routing
PerfectServe solutions work on this through automated call routing that connects a patient or family member with an appropriate care team member; secure messaging; physician shift scheduling; and technology enabling the virtual waiting room with supported bidirectional communication between clinicians and patients.
"With [artificial intelligence] there is a lot of promise – it’s going to be a great triage tool."
This approach to “intelligent routing,” as Rodriguez calls it, builds direct relationships with patients and ameliorates “the loss of autonomy, this loss of a direct relationship with a patient because it has been supplanted or replaced by these intermediate kinds of steps that are just a collection of transactions. I think that this is one of the things that people have started to push back against.
“A human-to-human interaction is still very much a universal human desire, and people do want a relationship” with their clinicians, Martinez concludes. “I do think that, ultimately, the adoption of technology is going to be a balancing act. And with [artificial intelligence] there is a lot of promise – it’s going to be a great triage tool. It’s an opportunity to take on a lot of information, consume it, and then help to channel and direct things to a human.”
Watch the HDM KLASroom series - Improving the clinician & care team experience. The program features a discussion between PerfectSefve's Chief Clinical Officer, Kelly Conklin and Susan E. Armentrout, Vice President, Nursing Informatics and Evidence-Based Practice at Bon Secours Mercy Health.