In a recent BBC article Washington correspondent, Silvia Martelli, said that millions of patients across the U.S. have seen a healthcare provider, from across all specialties, “in the comfort of their home.”
The article cited a national survey conducted by Harvard Business Review (HBR) and Press Ganey confirming this. They asked 1.3 million patients about their telehealth experience and the response to telemedicine was overwhelmingly positive.
Telehealth, or virtual care as it’s now more commonly called — a term becoming more entrenched by research firms like Gartner and its recent 2020 Market Guide for Virtual Care Solutions — has been available to healthcare providers for decades. When the pandemic exploded across the world, so did the use of virtual care. The safety and convenience of it became abundantly clear, and patients and providers alike flocked to the technology.
“COVID forced us to recognize telemedicine’s value.”
Dr. Eric Singman, Associate Professor, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, as cited in the recent BBC article.
Prior to the pandemic, BBC’s Martelli reports that virtual care usage was around 1% of all medical encounters. In March 2020, virtual care accounted for 34% of all medical encounters. That was its peak. In July usage dropped to 22%, and since August it has held at about 15% of all medical encounters.
Other than care like procedures, complex surgeries, and anything relying on direct, hands-on patient care, it appears almost any visit can be a virtual one. With the rapid growth of artificial intelligence (AI), and ever-improving technological advancements, even those visits may one day become virtual. Read about the visionary future of virtual care in 2050 where our morning showers-of-the-future aided by VR and AI will be focal to our daily routines, according to eVisit’s CTO and on-staff futurist, Miles Romney.
In the BBC story Dr. Eric Singman, Associate Professor at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, also said, “A patient’s health history is 90% of the diagnosis, and history is something we do verbally.” In fact, in some specialties like behavioral health, virtual care may be the preferred method of the encounter and could be considered better than an in-person visit according to Dr. Joe Kvedar, chair of the board at the American Telehealth Association (ATA) and professor of dermatology at Harvard Medical School.
Room for Improvement
While the HBR-Press Ganey survey was exceedingly positive, the BBC and the survey identified several areas that should be addressed like consistency and legislation.
The BBC piece probed “are we forsaking consistency for the sake of convenience?” and cited there is no across-the-board standard for scheduling, technology or EMR integration. A patient’s experience is not the same from platform-to-platform. In a large health system or hospital it makes sense to use a single end-to-end enterprise platform that is configurable to the established clinical workflows already in place, instead of utilizing disparate point products that create more work and introduce silo-ing and fragmented care. Also, depending on the platform used by a patient or health system, will the patient see a preferred provider, or one who is on deck in the “doctor’s box?” Patients like to see their usual provider. Patient frustration can also arise when having to re-explain health details to someone new each and every time there is an encounter with someone new. The continuum of care is critical for positive patient outcomes.
Temporary legislation for reimbursement, licensure, and regulations that have allowed millions to benefit from virtual care need to become permanent, and or improved to put virtual care on the same plane with in-person visits. This will have a monumental impact on provider adoption and engagement with telehealth.
To learn more about the eVisit Virtual Care solution and our consultative approach to helping the nation’s largest healthcare organizations establish an enterprise-wide virtual care offering to meet unique and ranging complex clinical workflows, go to evisit.com.