COVID forced health systems large and small to react; doing what was necessary to maximize engagement with their patient base: audio and video only engagement became the norm. According to the Medical Economics 2020 Technology Survey, November 6, 2020, “More than 93% of physician survey respondents said they have used telehealth to treat patients this year.” And the general finding of this study was:
· Physicians rely on telehealth to keep their practices afloat
· 75% indicated the investment in telehealth is worth it
With the quick onset of the initial COVID surge health care providers, regardless of size, adopted a variety of different tools to maximize patient engagement – 28%, per the Modern Economics’ survey adopted free software (skype, facetime, etc.) to support patient engagement, and only 34% relied on their EHR or Hospital system. Overall, a large majority of these adoptions were audio and/or video conferencing applications.
But now, taking COVID aside, there are fundamental shifts occurring that significantly impact healthcare providers and the delivery of care:
· Marco trends: regardless of geography, we have a growing, older (living longer), aging (percent of Population over 65 years of age), and sicker (development of more chronic conditions as they age) populations.
· The average Medicare patient with five chronic conditions sees nine different doctors each year and only spends a total of fifteen hours in front of their doctors.
o The question is, “what happens in the other 8745 hours in that year?” Let’s refer to this as a gap in care.
· The digital health momentum, in many ways helps but also hurts the delivery of care model:
o Many don’t have access to technology: (i.e. computers, smartphones and/or broadband connectivity).
The Shift to Virtual Care Delivery
The shift to virtual care delivery requires more then just an audio and/or video only feature set. Every patient journey is different – each having its unique care plan. the delivery of care model needs to scale across the community settings while servicing the unique needs of each patient; as well, a patient need not have to go to the provider every time they need support. With six out of ten adults having at least one chronic condition2 – the home is a true setting of care. Providers and patients need options/flexibility as to the best engagement modality based on need: from the asynchronous nature of the virtual front-door too synchronized video engagement then escalating to high acuity encounters ultimately providing Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM) monitoring services 24/7/365 coupled with Chronic Care Management Services and in 2022 Remote Therapeutic Monitoring. A feature rich virtual care platform does not have to be expensive – in fact, the enhanced revenue stream, based on regulatory models associated with virtual care services (i.e. telehealth, RPM, CCM and RTM) covers the cost and may even increase your net profits.