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Evolution of Patient Care Led by Virtual Care Services

Jean Turgeon, Vice President & Chief Technologist, Digital Transformation & Industry Solutions, Avaya

There’s no question that value-based healthcare is revolutionizing how healthcare is delivered and paid for, and the need has never been greater. Studies show that 6 out of 10 adults in the U.S. have a chronic disease being treated, and 60% of those adults have two or more healthcare organizations addressing their needs. Additionally, healthcare organizations are expected to spend close to $6 billion on treatment and prevention of chronic illness.

In the face of this growing demand, the supply of medical generalists has been consistently trailing the supply of specialists. There is a significant and growing shortage of primary care physicians, while the U.S. population of seniors is growing at a 11% rate thereby further exacerbating the lack of physicians to care for the growing senior population with comorbidities. 

At the same time, the business model of medicine is changing. Group medical practices have outpaced traditional family practices, and as more doctors opt for hospital employment, the patient relationship—a distinguishing benefit of family medicine—is at risk. More patients are feeling like numbers instead of people with individual needs and preferences. Could digital care be the cure?

Digital technology has been impacting access to health care services for quite some time. As technology improves, it is becoming easier to use and access throughout the world, so it is no surprise that health care and health insurance providers are set to further embrace new technologies. 

A patient’s care journey may begin with online research or a visit with their primary care physician. It continues with prescriptions, labs and imaging ordered, referrals to other care providers, and perhaps an ER visit or hospital admission. When you introduce the concept of virtual care, patients can be delivered quality health care and services that make their experience more convenient, more effective and with enhanced monitoring and follow up capabilities.

No matter what digital technologies are used in healthcare, centralized communication represents the future of enhancing patient experience – improving care team coordination, patient scheduling, access to care, time-to-service and revenue cycle management. For example, when centralized communications are tightly integrated, a holistic digital platform can be created that, when layered with advanced technologies like AI, biometrics and IoT, can transform healthcare system performance and overall patient experiences.

We continue to see healthcare systems increasingly rely on these centralized communications to digitally transform and improve patient care and provider efficiency and effectiveness. We’ll see the improvement of medical record portability through the adoption of smart mobile devices, assisted by AI and IoT platforms. Remote diagnostics accuracy leveraging smart devices and IoT will continue to improve as we fully leverage AI analytics capabilities. Secure medical record portability enables patients to more easily schedule or re-schedule appointments and transfer care between clinics with their various digital devices, providing caregivers with ready access to patient records, preferences, needs and history.

These digital transformation plans, however, must be driven by objective measures of clinical quality to improve costs, value and overall care. According to research firm IDC, there are more opportunities and challenges than ever to effectively communicate with patients, starting with the number of channel choices—phone, web, text, or chat—used to connect with them. A one-size-fits-all strategy will not work.

Enterprise patient access, services and digital care coordination solutions must be flexible, based on patient’s specific communication needs and where they are in their patient journey. These solutions must also address evolving technology, business, and regulatory requirements facing healthcare organizations. A virtual visit pilot program conducted by Brigham and Women’s Hospital found a 97% satisfaction rate among patients with access to these new communications and care options, with 74% stating “that the interaction actually improved their relationship with their provider.” They also found that 87% of patients said they would have needed to come into the office to see a provider face to face if it weren’t for their virtual visit.

Patient access and services will continue to evolve from live voice interactions to leveraging digital services, and care teams will be more exposed to real-time digital content that helps them better assist patients. Virtual care will continue to see stronger adoption as organizations complete their digital record implementations.

Avaya, patient experience, value-based

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