Leveraging virtual care to meet patients where they are

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Healthcare delivery is currently experiencing a transformation due to the rising popularity and prevalence of virtual care models, yielding advantages for patients and clinicians.

These new approaches to patient-centered medicine lead to more integrated care delivery and improved provider and patient satisfaction while distinguishing the health systems that leverage them. 

During a virtual featured session sponsored by Vituity as part of Becker's Hospital Review 11th Annual Meeting, a panel of executive healthcare leaders explained the rapid growth in virtual care and its lasting impact on creating a new care paradigm. Panelists were:

  • Theo Koury, MD; president of Vituity
  • Arby Nahapetian, MD; senior vice president and system medical officer with Adventist Health
  • Eugene Patrizio; CEO of Memorial Medical Center of Modesto, Sutter Health
  • Kirsten Saint Clair; vice president and chief executive of Providence On Demand 

Four key takeaways:

  1. The conditions of the pandemic accelerated the shift to virtual care. Virtual care has existed for years, but it took the pandemic to "accelerate its use simply because we were forced to," Dr. Koury said. New uses for virtual care emerged, such as extending hospitals and emergency departments to the home. "It's about 10 years of evolution crammed into just a few months," Mr. Patrizio said. In just over one month, Adventist Health surged from less than 1 percent of its ambulatory visits via telehealth to over 80 percent due to restricted in-person care and closed clinics, according to Dr. Nahapetian.
  2. Virtual care delivery options result in improved service for patients and clinicians. Virtual care expansion has revealed previously unmet needs. For some, managing care at home offers safety during a contagious pandemic. Virtual care also expanded what had previously been binary options in the Emergency Department: admit or go home. For some patients, going home with pulse oximetry and tools provided assurance to both patients and clinicians. In addition, care transition has typically been a low point in meeting patient expectations, but the improved coordination and follow-up enabled by virtual care allowed Adventist Health to reverse that. For these reasons, the panelists predicted that virtual options will continue.

  3. Success is tied to solving identified problems and involving all stakeholders but does not necessarily require radically new technology. Implementing a successful virtual health program relies on identifying the specific problem to be solved so that technology and workflow are tailored to that need while gaining buy-in from stakeholders. Investment in expensive technology need not be a hurdle, emphasized Dr. Koury. As noted by Mr. Patrizio, a significant transformation can be accomplished with "orthodox technology." 

  4. Keep the patient at the center of virtual care. Redesigns prompted by the move to virtual are an opportunity to reimagine systems from the patient perspective, considering ease of use and greater accessibility. Ms. Saint Clair notes, "Sometimes with so many different care options, it creates confusion. As health systems, one of the things we have to do is make the experience seamless". Virtual care can bring together the current fragmented healthcare system and bridge gaps, deploying sensibly designed workflows. Health systems should implement integrated virtual programs across departments. Once implemented, virtual can help empower patients to receive care at the right place and right time. 

To view the session replay, click here.

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