Six Key Findings for IT to Deliver Optimal Virtual Care Experiences

The pandemic has brought telehealth to the forefront for innovation in care delivery to meet the evolving needs of the global healthcare system. The benefits of telehealth are numerous – with this tool, continuous care delivery can be provided with virtual visits complementing, or in some cases replacing, episodic in-person visits. A hybrid care delivery approach can improve outcomes across a variety of care settings and, importantly, reduce patient volume in emergency departments in unpredictable times. 

Ultimately, telehealth has the potential to enhance patient safety, clinical efficiency, and patient engagement all at the same time. In the big picture, this can transform the patient experience and have a widespread positive impact on addressing chronic illness and population health management, along with public health initiatives like vaccination campaigns. 

The promise of telehealth is clear. What is less clear is how to make it work so well that it becomes just as good, or in many instances even better than, in-person visits. This is a compelling vision: telehealth adoption ramping up across the board because the experience has become so engaging for patients and providers alike. 

Still, a Global Virtual Care Experience study, conducted by Escalent on behalf of Logitech, has found that while virtual care adoption and satisfaction are on the rise overall, technical challenges remain that must be overcome for these tools to reach their full potential. Specifically, the study found six key areas that IT departments must focus on to deliver optimal virtual care experiences: 

Video Quality 

The study found that 82% of providers have had serious issues with the video quality they provide to patients. 93% believe better video quality improves the virtual care patient experience. The research also shows that patients feel more satisfied with telehealth when they feel like they are in the same room with their provider. Therefore, high-quality video components are essential to recreate the in-person experience and establish this sense of immersion. 

Any Time, Anywhere Usage

Virtual care is going beyond the walls of the medical office and hospital. The research shows that half of providers are delivering virtual care from their home office as well as their medical office. Furthermore, almost one in five are delivering virtual care from a mobile setting. It is critical for the virtual care session to run smoothly and clearly across an array of devices and over varied private network connections and low-bandwidth environments – for example, in rural or generally underserved areas where high-speed broadband internet may not be as accessible. 

Fully-Integrated Solutions 

According to the study, at least one quarter of providers are conducting telehealth visits from shared settings within the same facility, such as conference rooms, inpatient rooms and shared offices. From the ICU to huddle rooms, telehealth is being deployed under different circumstances within facilities. This can present workflow risks. Therefore, it is essential to offer fully-integrated, easy-to-use solutions across the entire facility, so that all telehealth components work seamlessly with existing devices, platforms and workflows in any space. 

Platform Agnostic Telehealth 

59% of respondents are using Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and/or Google Meet to deliver telehealth. Nearly a quarter (23%) are using a proprietary platform and 40% use more than one solution. Furthermore, from Epic to Cerner, Allscripts and beyond, healthcare providers work across an array of electronic health record (EHR) platforms, often within the same health system. Therefore, it is crucial to provide telehealth hardware that seamlessly integrates with any platform so that virtual care can quickly and easily be set up and maintained within these complex IT infrastructure ecosystems. 

Ease of Use

One-third of respondents (32%) said that they do not find it easy to use technology associated with video-based telehealth. This can often come in the form of a difficult user interface or overall user experience. Providers may struggle with overly complex video conferencing systems and controls. To overcome this challenge, it is critical for IT departments to understand that physicians struggle with technology like everyone else and to provide them with as simple of an interface as possible, emphasizing one-touch or one-tap features that reduce the capacity for human error. 

Lower Costs and Support Burdens 

As health systems continue to merge and expand, more fragmented patchworks of systems and platforms are introduced, leading to higher costs and higher technical support burdens. As 75% of providers expect telehealth usage to grow or remain elevated over the next year, it is more important than ever for IT to focus on unification of infrastructure and simplification. Adding telehealth components that encourage this is critical as health systems increasingly consolidate their systems in order to establish simplicity for all of their stakeholders. 

Telehealth is here to stay, and there has never been a greater sense of urgency to fully realize the vision for this tool than right now. As the global healthcare system is under unprecedented strain due to widespread chronic illness and unpredictable, sudden events like pandemics, bringing telehealth to fruition is of the utmost importance. IT departments have a critical role in ensuring that telehealth can go the “last mile” in care delivery and create necessary outcomes. 

Be sure to tune into our webinar with a deep dive on the study results, Global Insights into the Video-Enabled Virtual Care Experience: Understanding Patient and Provider Expectations.