Strategies for Virtual Care Success
To optimize telehealth and virtual services, healthcare organizations should focus on delivering a good experience for patients and care providers.
Many healthcare organizations greatly increased their offerings of telehealth services and other forms of virtual care during the COVID-19 pandemic. As the healthcare industry emerges from the pandemic, it is turning its attention to optimizing virtual care practices, making sure they are secure, efficient and sustainable.
While organizations refine the technologies underpinning virtual care, they also will need to establish appropriate policies and procedures. Together, these will facilitate compliance with regulations and best practices and will help organizations increase adoption of virtual services by patients and clinicians.
Healthcare organizations could potentially see major gains from the expansion of virtual care. To make the most of these opportunities, providers must create more successful digital experiences, understand the wants and needs of stakeholders and strategize on ways to overcome potential challenges to adoption.
The Digital Experience
The importance of patients’ digital experience throughout their engagement with a healthcare organization cannot be overstated. Fifty percent of patients say a negative digital experience with a healthcare provider may ruin their entire experience, according to Accenture, while a positive digital experience is a major influence for 39 percent of patients.
Healthcare organizations must bring the same approach to patients that retailers have applied to consumers. Providers must deliberately and strategically consider the digital experience as something that begins with the patient’s first moment of engagement. The most innovative hospitals are building digital experiences that give patients a choice between virtual or inpatient channels from the outset.
The hindrance, for many organizations, is an existing system that has not consistently prioritized digital experiences. For example, consumers have steadily increased their use of wearables, digital blood pressure monitors and similar devices, yet only 11 percent say their healthcare providers have recommended digital tools to manage health.
It is also important to recognize that consumers’ perceptions of healthcare technology do not exist in a vacuum. Because consumer trust and confidence in technology companies more generally has eroded in recent years, healthcare organizations must be intentional in embodying and communicating values of transparency, privacy and consumer protection.
Overcoming Adoption Challenges
Although many experts expect virtual care to become a common practice, healthcare providers should not regard this outcome as a certainty. Buy-in from patients and clinicians will determine how large these programs become, so it is critical to step back and redesign systems, if necessary, to secure users’ confidence. Implementing the right technology solution is a major part of this process because it can alleviate friction and increase efficiencies that are important to stakeholders.
In research by the COVID-19 Telehealth Impact Study Work Group, 52 percent of physicians agreed that telehealth had increased their work satisfaction. Rural physicians, however, were less likely to say that learning to use telehealth was easy, that they can continue to use it in financially viable ways and that they are motivated to use telehealth. All of these findings indicate a strong need for providers to understand clinician sentiment, especially its variation among markets.
Providers will also need data that allows them to understand who is using virtual care services, why and what their experiences are. For example, research from The Chartis Group and Kythera Labs shows that only 5 percent of telehealth visits were from new patients. Variations also exist among markets. Rural physicians reported that 65 percent of their telehealth visits are with established patients, versus 44 percent for urban physicians and 50 percent for suburban physicians, according to the COVID-19 Telehealth Impact Study Work Group.
Finally, providers should facilitate patient engagement with tools such as chatbots and with dedicated information on websites to provide resources, best practices and answers to frequently asked questions about telehealth and other virtual care services.
To learn more about how healthcare organizations can achieve telehealth success, read the white paper “Realizing the Power of Virtual Care” from CDW.