The value of telehealth and the shift to digital care – 3 ideas

During the pandemic, healthcare organizations embraced telehealth to ensure they could provide high-quality access and care to their patients.

Now, almost two years later, organizations are considering how best to move forward, including how to protect and maximize opportunities to move towards digital care.

During Becker’s 6th Annual Virtual Health Computing + Income Cycle Conference, the American Medical Association sponsored a panel discussion on this topic. WADA’s Lori Pretestater, VP of Healthcare Solutions, and Meg Barron, VP of Digital Health Innovations, spoke with healthcare leaders across the country about their digital health successes and challenges. .

Three insights:

1. Providers want virtual care to continue as long as their primary concerns are addressed. “Doctors are excited about digital health technologies,” Ms. Barron said. “However, this enthusiasm is directly related to the ability of a solution to help them better care for patients or reduce their administrative burden.” Four key concerns consistently expressed by physicians when evaluating digital solutions are whether a solution works and has an evidence base, how vendors will be compensated, what liability and privacy issues exist, and how to implement. implementation and management of change will occur.

2. One of the main benefits of telehealth is better access. Access can be broadly defined; virtual technology has made significant inroads in improving access in several ways:

    • COVID-19 access. The department chairman of a hospital in the Northeast noted that telehealth has helped them provide timely access and treatment to patients during the pandemic. “It worked extremely well in this emergency situation,” he said. “Patients would call and report symptoms, and we could make decisions about their care. We provided pulse oximeters and monitoring via telehealth.”
    • Specialized access. A marketing manager for a Midwestern health network – who is the father of a chronically ill daughter – shared his personal experience with specialist care from multiple systems. “I cannot imagine how my daughter could receive specialized care without telehealth. Care that was previously compartmentalized is now accessible nationally and even internationally.”
    • Access to behavioral health. A population health official from a Midwestern health care system said telehealth access to mental health services was a big success. “Patients found the pandemic very difficult and many needed behavioral health services, but they didn’t necessarily want to try to see someone because of the stigma associated with it,” she said. “Being able to offer behavioral telehealth services to our patients, and frankly, even to our employees, has been a great success.

3. Challenges such as patient reluctance, bandwidth issues and measuring value remain. Although patients are generally positive about telehealth, some have found it difficult to integrate telehealth platforms. A provider in the Northeast said younger patients like being able to text and connect virtually, but older patients often prefer in-person visits for the human connection.

Additionally, many healthcare organizations have faced connection issues. A West Coast Marketing Director explained, “We have 24 hospitals, and a lot of them are in rural areas. We really struggled with the bandwidth.

Finally, measuring the value of these technologies remains a challenge. Ms Prestesater pointed out that it can be a “multi-year equation to assess value for a patient with chronic disease”. AMA recently released Return on health value framework that can help an organization quantify the overall value of virtual care.

While some participants cautioned that virtual care might not be less expensive, it can be difficult to quantify the savings from, for example, avoiding emergency care. An executive at a Midwestern hospital said, “Home care has resulted in a substantial reduction in emergency room visits and hospital days for us. The problem with the whole equation is that it’s hard to measure something that isn’t happening.

To learn more about the 6th Annual Becker’s Health IT + Revenue Cycle Virtual Conference, Click here.

To explore the case studies and scenarios included in WADA’s Return on Health report, Click here.

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