What it means to be wired for virtual care

CHIME (the College of Health Information Management Executives) recently released its Most Wired annual report which surveyed more than 600 IT executives.

The report highlighted two key areas which emerged in 2018: the use of foundational technologies such as integration, interoperability, security and disaster recovery; and the use of transformational technologies to support population health management, value-based care, patient engagement and telehealth. The two areas complement each other as a healthcare organization needs to have the foundational technologies set in order to best utilize transformational tools which will evolve the delivery of care.

According to the report, the use of virtual care is more than just a nascent idea or novel tool; organizations are recognizing how the innovative technology will help transform patient access to care and strengthen patient engagement in care:

• Many (at least 25%) provider organizations’ population health strategies focus on COPD, CHF, heart disease and hypertension. Fewer organizations are offering real-time, at-home chronic disease management for behavioral health, sickle cell anemia and end-stage renal disease.
• Beyond the inpatient or clinical setting, organizations are enabling patients to access care from the setting of their choice – most likely their own home. Sixty-seven percent of surveyed organizations offer secure email exchange with a member of home care team and 38% offer virtual patient visits.
• Ninety percent of surveyed organizations offer a mobile patient portal; and nearly all offer access to test results and visit summaries.

The report concluded that “although barriers like reimbursement limitations and evolving regulations currently prevent healthcare organizations from harnessing the full potential of telehealth services, 89% of participating organizations offer some form of telehealth services. Most of these organizations are still early in their telehealth journey; few offer focused telehealth services such as eICU, rehabilitation, genetic counseling, or skilled nursing services. Additionally, outside of the hospital or physician office, access to telehealth services is limited. By continuing to expand access to telehealth services, and to expand the types of services offered, provider organizations can reap the full benefits of telehealth technologies and enable their patients to do the same.”

What does it mean to be wired? From a virtual care perspective, being “wired” means that healthcare organizations are “inspired” to provide patients with faster and better care. Providers can move towards being more wired and inspired in the following ways:

1. Functional and Flexible: Being inspired means that the healthcare organization has planned for flexibility and will allow the video platform to be used across wired and wireless computers and devices. By being able to use tablets and smartphones, providers and patients have greater ability to initiate and/or participate in a video call.

2. Connecting and Communicating: Being inspired means that a healthcare organization understands the importance of seeing, hearing, and understanding each other in real-time. With video conferencing technology, all care team members (providers, specialists, pharmacists, caregivers and even interpreters) can converse in real-time with the added benefit of seeing the patient’s physical condition and emotional expression.

3. Widespread and Welcome: Being inspired means that virtual care is increasingly viewed as a viable and valuable way to deliver healthcare throughout the healthcare organization. Although a virtual care program typically starts in one department (or with one use-case), a universal and scalable video conferencing platform will help an organization to easily and quickly drive increased adoption and expanded usage across teams.

4. Convenient Yet Caring: Being inspired means that the healthcare organization is truly patient-centric. With video conferencing technology, virtual consults can be used before, during, and after the hospital visit to help any patient (regardless of generation and/or geography) with convenient and immediate access to healthcare resources. Before the actual hospital stay, virtual visits can help providers assess patients remotely and guide them to appropriate care - which may involve a visit to the emergency room, depending on the situation. During the hospital visit, virtual care solutions can enable providers to access offsite specialists to provide needed treatment. Post-hospital discharge, video conferencing can re-engage discharged patients in their follow-up care without requiring time and effort needed for in-person follow-up appointments. Throughout all stages, the care team can leverage video conferencing to coordinate processes and maintain consistency of care with the patient’s well-being in mind.

“Wired” is a means to an end; a healthcare organization should focus on always being “inspired” by the patient population which it serves and supports.

By Lee Horner, CEO of Synzi

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