Covid-19 forced healthcare organizations to make a big leap forward in their digital transformation roadmaps. Although many companies had plans to advance in telemedicine, the crisis revealed that virtual care is not only possible, but in many cases is also preferred by patients. Virtual care also offers an opportunity to improve the patient experience, improve the health of the population, reduce costs, and improve the working lives of health care providers, the fourfold goal of health.
“To improve patient outcomes, we need to involve the patient’s family and other significant people in their care, because it has to extend beyond the four walls of the hospital,” says Dr. Reetu Singh, senior medical director, integrity of AdventHealth clinical documentation. “With virtual care, you are providing this continuum of care and therefore deliver better results. And this is the future: this is what patients want. Our future is technology. We need to be at the forefront and provide care where our patients are; we have to go to the patients instead of coming to the patients ”.
Many healthcare organizations are working to advance virtual care options. That said, the road to digital health transformation is bumpy, more so than in other sectors. Healthcare was already lagging behind in the adoption of virtual models, and the realities of patient care, reimbursement, and privacy concerns add significant complexity.
The case of permanent hybrid health care
The future of healthcare is probably a hybrid model, where patients receive a combination of virtual and face-to-face care. This shift toward hybrid care could improve some of the major problems in the U.S. health care system. For example, the United States has a shortage of primary care physicians, which means it can be difficult to get an appointment. Scarcity is especially severe in rural and poor urban communities. Many patients end up resorting to emergency services or emergency services, much more expensive than a standard office visit.
The good news is that many signs indicate that the future of healthcare will be hybrid, with patients receiving a combination of virtual and face-to-face care:
- Telehealth use was initially skyrocketed almost 40 times before Covid and has stabilized at a high level.
- Medical app downloads rose 65% last year.
- Investment in the digital health space during the first half of 2021 reached nearly $ 15 billion, surpassing 2020 and doubling the amount in 2019.
- Finally, estimates say U.S. health care spending could shift up to $ 250 billion to virtual care in the coming years.
The insurance side is also jumping on board. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Service (CMS) approved dozens of new telehealth services last year, and taxpayers are beginning to offer virtual health plans first, where patients first see a virtual provider before making a face-to-face appointment. .
Great challenges on the road to hybrid healthcare
While hybrid health offers many promises, organizations have significant hurdles to overcome to complete a true digital transformation.
1. Hybrid healthcare must deliver a seamless patient experience.
Perhaps the biggest challenge is to make the virtual patient experience seamless and fully integrated with face-to-face care services. Suppose you have a virtual check-up and your doctor asks for a blood test. Unlike when you’re in the office, you’ll need to take a few extra steps to complete this test, a potentially large point of friction. Virtual care providers need to figure out how to integrate with testing organizations to facilitate the experience, similar to the big push to make Covid detection possible at home.
The development of increasingly sophisticated remote patient diagnosis and follow-up tools will help improve the experience. There are already many tools on the market to facilitate the virtual health experience. For example, Kencor Health has a digital assistant that reminds patients to take their vital characteristics and automatically shares this information with their doctors.
Virtual, artificial and augmented reality will also play an important role in connecting the virtual experience and the person: the augmented virtual reality and health market is also expected to reach $ 16 billion by 2027. To share just one example, Healthymize is an app that uses artificial intelligence to control patients ’voices to detect respiratory illnesses such as pneumonia and asthma.
2. Hybrid healthcare must take into account the digital divide.
The digital divide is another health issue facing the transition to hybrid models. While virtual health care can improve access for underserved populations, what happens when these patients do not have access to the Internet or cannot afford the cell phones or other remote control tools needed to run care? virtual? What about patients who may not be comfortable navigating technology? Care and insurance providers need to figure out a way to design a hybrid healthcare experience that doesn’t leave segments of the population behind.
3. Hybrid healthcare requires a smart organizational strategy.
Finally, like any other industry in 2021, healthcare needs to figure out how to design a hybrid workplace strategy or risk an exodus of talent. Although healthcare is among those industries where some workers have to be face-to-face (especially doctors), administrative, IT and other service groups can work remotely. Therefore, some hospitals are evaluating a reduction in administrative space to reduce costs. It all comes down to figuring out how each group can be most effective in benefiting the organization.
These are big thorny issues that health must solve before hybrid or virtual health care becomes ubiquitous. That said, if there’s one thing the pandemic has shown, it’s that healthcare can solve big challenges quickly. The return is worthwhile, as virtual health offers an opportunity to reduce costs, improve the health of the population and start a new wave of innovation in the sector.