For better or worse, the coronavirus pandemic brought with it a once-in-a-generation opportunity to not only test, but to also successfully deliver new care-delivery models. As a result, telehealth and other forms of virtual care are here to stay.
While virtual care was previously a nice-to-have, it is now an essential part of our new reality. Whether driven by consumers’ ever-increasing demand for convenience, or the result of changed behaviors in controlling contagion spread, healthcare organizations of every type and size are now more compelled than ever to incorporate virtual care into their delivery models.
And how do we solve the bigger challenge of effectively applying the full breadth of virtual care technologies to enhance communication and collaboration across care teams and settings?
It is common for healthcare organizations to implement fragmented solutions such as telehealth to solve one-off problems. Leaders are so intent and pressured to solve each day’s immediate issues that it is easy to overlook the forest for the trees. This myopic focus on one-off solutions to solve today’s issue creates a layering effect where new processes, solutions, and resources can pile up as each new issue demands a response – in other words, we continue to add new work without taking anything off of the care teams’ plates. The result is workflow inefficiencies and frustrating care experiences for both patients and healthcare providers that contribute to clinician burnout.
One answer to this challenge lies in stepping into the worn shoes of both the patient and the caregiver to understand the patient journey and experience. Another critical consideration relevant to today’s situation is that virtual care is much more than a standalone telehealth visit. Let’s delve into these a bit further.
Providing virtual care doesn’t start and stop with a telehealth video session. It also includes the ability of the clinical and non-clinical care team, patient, and family members to virtually collaborate and coordinate care across the continuum of care. Think of your day-to-day life. Before Coronavirus, you likely didn’t communicate with friends, family, and co-workers solely by video. Instead it was almost certainly a combination of texts, phone calls, in-person visits, and maybe Skype or FaceTime sessions that matched the situation and the nature of each interaction. The same can be true for care delivery.
In fact, research has demonstrated that daily texts to patients can improve outcomes such as medication adherence and reduction in complications. And a study published in the Journal of Internal Medicine found that hospitalized medical patients whose care team utilized secure messaging showed a relative decrease in length of stay.
So while telehealth consults are understandably popular at the moment, the power of texting and on-demand video calls to personalize healthcare should not be overlooked. In fact, the more that secure texting becomes a standard of care across the care continuum, the more clinical outcomes and user experiences will improve.
Adapting to a real-time, video, voice, and texting model that integrates with the EHR requires a foundational infrastructure that supports communication within two worlds at once:
This dual-function, single platform infrastructure allows for virtual care communications before, during, and after a telehealth visit which not only enhances the patient experience, but also reduces care team toil associated with ineffective and outdated communication processes.
Virtual care communication and collaboration enables better patient experience, more efficient and cost-effective ways of delivering care, and liberates the care team from being tethered to the EHR.
These examples of virtual care incorporated into everyday operations aim to improve the patient experience described by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) as follows:
“Patient experience encompasses the range of interactions that patients have with the health care system, including their care from health plans, and from doctors, nurses, and staff in hospitals, physician practices, and other health care facilities. As an integral component of health care quality, patient experience includes several aspects of health care delivery that patients value highly when they seek and receive care, such as getting timely appointments, easy access to information, and good communication with health care providers.”
Dissecting this reflection of patient experience highlights significant gaps in current care delivery models, many of which are resolved through effective clinical communication and collaboration solutions:
Patient Experience Components
Current State Reality
|Interactions that patients have with the health care system, including their care from health plans, and from doctors, nurses, and staff in hospitals, physician practices, and other health care facilities:||
|Patients highly value getting timely appointments, easy access to information, and good communication with health care providers:||
These gaps are not insurmountable and it is safe to assume that patients will have increasing expectations for virtual care long beyond the pandemic. As healthcare organizations reimagine the way care is delivered by enabling virtual care communication and collaboration technologies, investments in proper implementations and purposeful focus on patient and clinician experience will bring an organization closer to achieving higher quality care at a lower cost that doesn’t come at the expense of healthcare staff’s well-being.
Remember, the goal is not simply to provide a virtual video visit, it’s to effectively enable the entire care team to operate efficiently, safely, and in a more human-centric way within this increasingly digital and virtual world.
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At the heart of healthcare are human beings caring for human beings and virtual care technologies empower the compassion of care as well as clinical excellence. As your organization establishes a blueprint for virtual care, consider these guiding principles to increase opportunities for human connection, to reinforce mission and purpose, and reduce clinician burnout:
Finally, consider virtual care as a way of life and not merely an isolated telehealth video visit.
Seamless care experience can only happen if nurses, physicians, patients, and the entire care community are connected and collaborating. Click here to explore how TigerConnect helps healthcare teams to get the right information to the right people, at the right time to make virtual care and patient engagement a sustainable reality.
Tags: Humanness, Person-Centered Care, Holistic Care, Readmissions, Performance Improvement, Personalized Care, Clinical Transformation, Care Model, Patient Journey, TeleHealth, Virtual Care, Patient Experience, Patient Engagement, Clinical Communication, Workflow Efficiency, Patient Outcomes, Patient Satisfaction