By Heidi West, Director of Health, Zoom.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, telehealth has become an invaluable part of providing care. And by all indications, virtual attention is here to stay even after the COVID-19 threat passes, largely due to consumer demand. in a Qualtrics report Commissioned by Zoom, 61% of US respondents who have used video for healthcare said they plan to attend medical appointments both online and in person in the future.
The key elements are choice and competition. Consumers want to be able to choose how and where to receive care, and that can include retail solutions and direct to the consumer or their primary care provider. Sometimes an in-person appointment may be preferred or required, and other times, patients want to save time and money by using high-quality telehealth options.
As more healthcare organizations look beyond the pandemic to create long-term virtual care and telehealth solutions, reliability, consistency, and quality are key to driving adoption, building trust, and improving the patient experience. Here are some things to keep in mind:
Find a solution that integrates into your workflows
When the right technology meets the right application, it becomes almost invisible to end users. That’s what providers and patients want: a telehealth solution that “just works” and feels as comfortable and intuitive as something they have been using for years. The ability to integrate and personalize plays a key role in creating that experience.
During the pandemic, I met with many healthcare organizations that emphasized that they need their telehealth solution to live in the workflows they use every day.
If your telehealth solution doesn’t fit comfortably into your workflows, it could lead to a variety of problems. If providers need to switch between multiple platforms in their daily work, it could potentially increase time spent on administrative tasks, limit time with patients, and lead to missed appointments and lost revenue. Administrators may find that a parallel workflow duplicates efforts and costs, while an integrated solution could streamline processes and reduce inefficient expenses.
Look for a telehealth solution that has the ability to integrate with your EHR or HIT system, or that allows integration with open platforms through APIs, the latter of which provides flexibility and customization opportunities. Seamless integration allows providers to focus on medical practice without fiddling with controls or switching between platforms.
A focus on innovation and continuous improvement is also crucial for a superior patient experience. As the last 18 months have shown, consumer needs and demand can change overnight – a telehealth solution that continues to listen to customers and improves its offerings to meet industry needs will help you stay at the forefront.
Think beyond the clinic
Telemedicine is ushering in a new standard of care around the world, in part because of what happens beyond the initial doctor visit. From patient education to population health, virtual care encompasses much more than patient-provider appointments.
For example, a specialist caring for a patient for a chronic condition such as diabetes can meet virtually with other members of the patient care team, such as their primary care physician, dietitian, social worker, and nursing home staff, to coordinate care and treatment. With virtual meetings, busy providers don’t need to worry about travel time or distance, making scheduling easy.
The patient can communicate with a pharmacist via video to learn how to use their new glucose monitor and with a dietitian to discuss their blood sugar levels. Remote patient monitoring can track patterns and fluctuations in glucose levels, and the patient can have multiple follow-up visits with their specialist to monitor the effectiveness of a new medication regimen, all without leaving home. For many patients managing multiple or chronic conditions, more contact points can improve observation, communication, and ultimately well-being throughout the entire care process.
A virtual approach also allows family members to be present at telehealth appointments, even from different cities or states, to ask questions and support the patient’s healthcare journey.
The use of a multipurpose video platform also enables greater connection and exchange of information within clinical and administrative settings. Providers can continue their medical education with virtual trainings, certification programs, and conferences. Hospital administrators can convene staff virtually across various departments and buildings for routine announcements and emergency communications.
By looking beyond clinical applications to virtual platforms, healthcare providers and organizations can more easily bridge the gap between clinic and business. With a platform that serves both business and consumer, and delivers the same ubiquitous experience, organizations can nurture meaningful relationships with their patients, conveniently coordinate care, and communicate more efficiently than ever.
It all comes down to the patient experience
The past year has taught us a lot about virtualization of the healthcare industry. Far from being a pandemic solution, telehealth and video communications implemented throughout the continuum of care make health care more accessible, convenient and affordable.
With the rise of direct-to-consumer healthcare, especially for primary care, mental health, urgent care, and chronic disease management, it all comes down to the patient and provider experience. Video will continue to play a critical role in meeting patient expectations for “where and when” care that is convenient and accessible without compromising quality.
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