Planning for a Sustainable Virtual Care Delivery Model

Guest authored by Eric Bacon, President of AMD Global Telemedicine

Health care providers have been steadily increasing their use of telehealth over the past decade, but the COVID-19 pandemic served as a catalyst for rapid adoption of this technology. McKinsey recently found that in 2019, only 11% of U.S. consumers used telehealth, while today 76% of consumers are interested in telehealth services and 46% are actively using them to replace their in-person healthcare visits.

This sudden spike in demand meant practices needed to quickly adapt to new workflows, technology and training. However, this is leading many to question whether these swiftly developed telehealth programs will be sustainable in the years to come.

Virtual care is here to stay, so it’s important for healthcare practices to ensure their current telehealth programs can scale and adapt to the rapidly changing healthcare landscape.

Rapid adoption of telehealth can lead to mistakes

Choosing the right technology and solution for your practice’s telehealth program requires a lot of research, evaluation and training. When the pandemic hit, many health care providers didn’t have the luxury of time to do all of this work. Becker’s Healthcare noted that while it usually takes months or years to deploy a customized telehealth platform, organizations needed to pivot their strategy to virtual care in mere weeks.

Large and small healthcare practices did an amazing job at adapting to this short timeframe to integrate new digital technologies into existing infrastructures. While quickly offering telehealth helped patients safely connect with a physician during the pandemic (especially those who are immunocompromised), there are drawbacks to this method.

The publication reported that many practices were using 20 or more different telemedicine services due to physicians and even individual departments adopting various platforms. They often chose a vendor or platform based on one of two factors: Low price or quick deployment, but failed to account for security or ease of use. These disjointed systems meant patient data was still siloed and, in the long run, that could lead to increased overhead costs and inconsistent patient experiences.

If your practice had to adapt to telehealth fast during the pandemic, it’s time to reevaluate your system to ensure it’s integrated and comprehensive.

Virtual care is more than a video call

It’s easy to fall under the initial impression that a video conference platform is all a healthcare facility needs to conduct virtual care, but that is a short-sighted view. It is a great solution to address immediate needs when COVID initially hit, but it is not a solution for every application in the new healthcare delivery model today and moving forward. Audio and video applications only are a great foundation for telehealth, but they are by no means the only tools needed for a sustainable virtual care model. Healthcare professionals need to be able to scale up from simply doing a video call, to a platform that allows them to address more use cases and clinical modalities. For instance, while video conferencing tools are ideal for general follow up or behavioral health visits, there is no way for a physician to complete a clinical evaluation that would help them make a diagnosis or recommend further care.

A sustainable and scalable virtual care model must incorporate video conferencing simultaneous to integrated medical devices and documentation that can be saved into a practice’s EMR. These tools not only help physicians perform more care functions from a distance, but they can easily be scaled up (or down) as the business needs of the practice change.

Creating a telehealth program for tomorrow, today

When time is of the essence to roll out a telehealth program, it’s important to still be strategic in how you choose a technology vendor and partner. While deploying and managing a system falls under your organization’s responsibility, you want a technology partner that you can trust to help you through the entire process. Additionally, a system should never be chosen solely based on price or deployment speed. Even under a time crunch, other elements of the solution should be considered:

  • Scalability: Will the technology solution be able to grow with the business needs of your practice?
  • Flexibility: Can the system be easily pivoted to accommodate different functions and specialties when needed
  • Training: How easy and how often will staff need to be retrained with the system?
  • Security: Is the vendor staying on top of HIPAA requirements, offering BAAs and incorporating new security/encryption measures into the system?
  • Accessibility: Can patients easily use the system? Do they need to download an app and what information must they provide?

It’s time to reimagine the way you delivery care in the current healthcare landscape and beyond. Download the ebook “The New Normal with Telehealth” to learn more about the key areas your healthcare organization needs to evaluate to garner success and sustainability with telemedicine.

Eric Bacon leads the team at AMD and brings two decades of experience designing new telemedicine technology solutions that play a vital role in the digital transformation of the healthcare industry.   Learn more about Eric Bacon