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How virtual care can boost the value of telehealth services

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Telehealth will become more integral to healthcare organizations as more providers adopt the technology and deploy it across roles, departments, facilities and settings. To become further ingrained in the design and delivery of healthcare, the value proposition for telehealth must evolve to reflect the significant value technology can add by improving the timing and enhancing the quality of care.

Technology-enabled care—the use of technology to drive faster and better virtual consults, virtual visits and virtual meetings—is critical to optimizing outcomes for patients, providers and healthcare organizations. Virtual care represents telehealth’s new value proposition as the healthcare industry ushers in the next generation of care delivery options.

When a critical decision is needed for admission, treatment, transfer or discharge, providers and patients can benefit from medical staff usage of video-based platforms to facilitate timely “virtual consults” with offsite specialists.

It is understandable that healthcare organizations may be hesitant to deploy the use of technology in this manner. Hospital administrators and healthcare providers may fear that their reputation and results may be at risk if out-of-network specialists are tasked with providing virtual consults on-demand. However, healthcare organizations should envision technology as an asset that can automate their existing workflows and optimize their outcomes.

When the organization’s network of approved and preferred specialists are configured into the technology, a provider can quickly access the first available, in-network specialist, on-demand for a virtual consult. Instead of wasting valuable seconds and minutes trying to find a specialist onsite, providers can quickly facilitate a virtual consult and accomplish the critical objectives of doing what is both timely and appropriate for the patient’s situation.

The impact can be significant. In some cases, the use of a virtual consult means that a critical diagnosis and treatment decision is provided within 30 minutes vs. taking one to three days. The patient’s length of stay and related care costs are reduced. The specialist’s available time is maximized by conducting virtual consults instead of commuting to a healthcare facility. The care is efficient yet effective, and the right diagnosis is provided at the right time—optimizing outcomes for the patient, the medical team and the broader healthcare organization.

When providers need to ensure that patients are adhering to the treatment plan after discharge, patients and medical staff can benefit from using a video-based platform to participate in “virtual visits.” Providers may be concerned that the use of technology cannot replace the value of an in-person appointment. Additionally, medical staff may be wary of their ability to effectively communicate and care for their discharged patients via video. However, healthcare organizations should embrace the use of secure, HIPAA-compliant technology to strengthen patient engagement post-discharge.

When the care team members’ contact information is configured into the technology, a patient can conveniently access an appropriate care team member for a virtual visit. Instead of requiring patients to return to a healthcare facility or medical office, care team members can “see and treat” the patients virtually and ensure that patients remain at-home and on-track with treatment.

Using technology to engage patients from the comfort and convenience of their home can also optimize providers’ available time. In some cases, the use of a virtual visit means that a provider’s transportation time can be converted into treatment time, effectively enabling a provider to see 11 percent more patients in the time typically spent driving to other care facilities or settings. Ongoing virtual visits can help providers monitor and motivate discharged patients, leading to less readmissions, improved outcomes, and enhanced satisfaction for patients, providers and healthcare organizations.

When core members of a care team need to quickly discuss a patient’s transition of care from one facility to another, providers can use a video-based platform to conduct “virtual meetings” and align on how to provide coordinated care throughout the care continuum.

Providers may typically rely on phone calls or emails to convey transition of care decisions. Conducting in-person meetings may be time-consuming and require too many people to drive to one specific setting. Technology can help providers streamline coordination across the overall care team.

Using technology to engage care team members can drive team-based collaboration and integrated care. Regardless of the various locations, all core team members—including doctors, nurses, care coordinator or case managers or others—can quickly connect and coordinate the next steps for the patient’s care while minimizing travel time and related expenses. More frequent and more flexible virtual meetings will help the care team ensure that the patient’s care is optimized at every touchpoint and transition point.

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