Ushering in Next Generation Virtual Care: A Unified Approach to Virtual Health

In the early days of the pandemic, providers and care teams actively sought ways to deliver care to patients safely and effectively. The result was a surge in the use of telehealth. 

Today, if you ask hospital executives what are the top five priorities, among the topics will inevitably be virtual care.

What is missing from conversations with C-level executives is a comprehensive approach to virtual care. Virtual care is no longer simply the use of telehealth. It must be an all-encompassing strategy that includes traditional virtual visits, but also acknowledges the importance of a deep strategy surrounding virtual rounding & telesitting, virtual patient monitoring & hospital at home, and team & community collaboration. 

It is also important to have a digital front door capability that can be configured to tailor virtual experiences for patients and families without increasing hospital burden. A digital front door orchestrates and integrates all aspects of virtual care and is necessary for creating an ideal patient and provider experience across care settings. 

Additionally, with AI/ML models becoming more mature, healthcare institutions can efficiently map the correct virtual intervention, with the correct patients. This allows clinical context and content to be curated within the virtual interaction, improving time to intervention. The result is better patient outcomes.

Here are 4 key themes to consider when developing your hospital’s approach to virtual care.

Market Dynamics

New market entrants such as Amazon, CVS, Walgreens, and Walmart are taking steps to redefine care delivery in non-hospital settings. For these players, the pandemic highlighted an attractive and convenient proposition to deliver health virtually to consumers across conditions and acuity levels.

Healthcare providers need to embrace a consumer-centric approach to virtual health, including:

Leveraging a Digital Front Door to Improve Care Access  

Hospitals increased access to care during the pandemic by expanding virtual visits by 6,000 percent. We learned virtual care helps close disparities in health, but hospitals must continue to grow virtual health strategies beyond telehealth and use the opportunity to increase access to care. To create visibility, navigation, and access for patients, a comprehensive digital front door is necessary. Digital front door technologies offer improved patient access and right-size need and volume across lines of service. A well-executed digital front door and virtual health strategy can yield significant return on investment:

  • 64% reduction in unnecessary emergency department (ED) visits and improved hospital bed availability for high acuity patients 
  • 90% of patients were at ease with virtual care and felt care was equal to or better than in person
  • 80% of patients return to the digital front door to actively take part in their health

Delivering Care at Home 

With ED volume pressure, providers should re-envision care delivery outside the four walls of the facility. Advancements in remote patient monitoring have yielded positive outcomes in managing conditions post discharge. Health systems with patient monitoring have seen a reduction in readmission rates upwards of over 24%. 

A natural evolution is to shift advanced care services to new care models such as hospital at home. Healthcare providers are not prepared for deployment of care teams and resources to deliver proper services. 

Combining virtual health and secure clinical communications can improve care team coordination. When done well, these models create revenue streams, encourage patient satisfaction, retention, loyalty, and create availability for higher acuity patients.

Platform vs. Siloed Capabilities

Early on, telehealth struggled to find its identity. Virtual provider networks were set up to augment services but lacked the technical infrastructure to support operations. As the industry matured, telehealth was awash with siloed technologies creating highly fragmented experiences and inefficiencies. This led to added burdens and an inability to service demand.

Consider the breadth of technologies that encompass your virtual strategy – more technology does not equal improved experiences. Multiple siloed technologies carry workflow burdens and cost implications.  A unified platform approach establishes simplified, consistent access to care and supports the provider and patient in any setting.

Yielding Return on Investment  

Alleviating Resource Shortages

Resource constraints have hit healthcare hard. Rounding, when virtualized, becomes a powerful tool to address resource constraints. Hospitals have strategically aligned the approach to virtual health to include virtual rounding, which can enable a one-to-many model to better manage system capacity and improve acuity mix. Introducing virtual rounding experiences in departments such as emergency (ED), where remote clinicians with capacity can quickly triage patients, has proven 17% reduction in left without being seen (LWBS) rates and increase ED capacity by two times. This enables organizations to offer clinicians alternative working models (virtual, remote, and part time) to alleviate staffing shortages.

Expediting Workflows & Improving Patient Outcomes 

Enterprise-wide communication and collaboration technology can be combined with virtual health offerings and tethered to electronic health records to increase care team productivity, reduce patient wait times, increase patient throughput, and significantly lower costs. Across the board, peer-to-peer and clinic-to-clinic collaboration such as, tele stroke or tele psych require manual effort to request a specialist. The result is slower intervention times and directly affects patient outcomes. By streamlining care team communication workflows and automating collaboration pathways, hospitals can reduce burden while improving time to intervention and quality.

Context and Orchestration using Artificial Intelligence (AI)

Artificial intelligence presents opportunities to make virtual experiences efficient for care teams and personalized to patient need. AI bots can inject the virtual environment with clinical data and context based on provider, service, and patient clinical profile. AI bots can also aid clinicians in curating patient context, recommending next best actions, supporting clinical decision making, and requesting clinical support from available care team members.

Hospitals looking to implement a strategic virtual health program must look at how all virtual care is delivered across the health system and move towards a vision that unifies all the disparate solutions with a digital front door enabling a consistent experience. Hospitals embracing benefits of virtual care will excel in the future. Do not be left behind, learn how ThinkAndor® Enterprise Platform for Virtual Health can enable your organization to achieve more.


About the Author

As CEO at Andor Health, Raj Toleti guides the company’s vision to change the way care teams connect, communicate and collaborate to reduce clinician burnout, accelerate time-to-treatment and deliver better patient outcomes. He brings more than 20 years of healthcare technology experience to his role.
He founded and served as CEO of HealthGrid, a provider of a first-of-its-kind mobile patient engagement platform, which was acquired by Allscripts in 2018. Previously, he founded and served as President of Coordinated Care Solutions at PatientPoint, a leading provider of patient engagement, population health management, and clinical trial enrollment solutions.

A serial entrepreneur, Raj throughout his career has built solutions to empower and enable patients to improve health outcomes. He began his health IT career in the mid-1990s at Microsoft, where he was an Enterprise Program Manager in the healthcare consulting practice. Other successful ventures include Galvanon, acquired by NCR in 2005, and Cytura Corporation, acquired by Mobius in 2002.

Ernst & Young named Raj Entrepreneur of the Year for the Florida Region in the healthcare technology category in 2018. He currently serves as a Board Member of the University of Central Florida Foundation and is an active member of CHIME. Raj holds a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from PSG College of Technology in Coimbatore, India, and a master’s degree in industrial engineering from the University of Central Florida in Orlando.