Three Ways Virtual Healthcare is Changing the Way Providers Treat Patients
Virtual care has come a long way in just the last five years. As commercial technology advances to the point where we can hold video conferences on our phones and transmit massive stores of data in minutes, these advances can help doctors deliver better care to patients who need it the most.
While the upsides for patients are well documented, providers like doctors, nurses and radiologists also benefit greatly from a medical environment that isn’t reliant on the clinician and patient being present in the same location. Below, I outline three ways that virtual care is changing the way providers serve their patients, enabling them to better fulfill their oath to try to heal those who seek their help.
- Easier Access to Patients Across the World
Doctors are driven by the desire to help people and find new patients to treat. With virtual care they can do that in any state they are licensed no matter their physical location. It’s no secret there’s a shortage of doctors and nurses in rural parts of the country as well as some under-served urban areas. While previously that meant these people didn’t get the kind of care they needed, now it means doctors can take on these patients no matter their location.
This is especially true when it comes to top specialists treating patients with cancer, heart disease or other difficult ailments. While the best doctors often reside in large cities with world-class medical facilities, the patients who need them the most are spread out across the country.
Virtual care is the answer to this problem as the American Hospital Association showed in a case study last year involving Children’s Hospital & Medical Center in Omaha, which is the only full-service pediatric healthcare center in Nebraska.
Pediatric patients from rural, western Nebraska often traveled up to 4.5 hours to reach the hospital for psychiatric appointments. By instituting a telepsychiatry program, the hospital was able to reduce travel by about 96,000 miles a year per patient. Top pediatric psychiatrists in Omaha were able to help children all across the state, without forcing those patients to trek 9 hours round trip for care.
- More time spent with patients
Clinicians are incredibly busy people and an oft-cited complaint from both doctors and patients is they don’t get enough facetime to truly connect and understand conditions, treatments or outcomes.
A Becker’s Hospital Review article from 2016 shows physicians spend between 13 minutes and 16 minutes with each patient during a visit. Virtual care can change that, especially for doctors treating patients with chronic conditions like diabetes or kidney disease. In fact, doctors are increasingly finding video-based visits free them up to see more patients and see them for longer periods of time.
A 2019 study from Massachusetts General Hospital in the Journal of Managed Care shows 70.5% of doctors surveyed said virtual video visits are superior to office visits for timely scheduling of patient appointments.
Dr. Lee Schwamm, director of the MGH Center for Telehealth underscored this point by saying, “Our findings confirm what I felt in my gut, which is that what patients’ value most is uninterrupted time with their doctor.”
This is a huge win for doctors. It means they can truly make a personal connection with patients by spending uninterrupted time face-to-face with them.
- Scale Up (or Down) Services Quickly and Efficiently
Beyond the patient experience, virtual care also helps providers consume the technology they need, when they need it. Through cloud-based telehealth systems, care centers can spin up services quickly without a lot of added hardware.
Cloud-ready video endpoints designed to perform in a wide variety of clinical settings, including eICU, patient monitoring, stroke and general clinical consults are a boon to providers who must suit the needs of a wide array of patients. Providers can choose what features they need depending on who they’re treating.
Beyond that, cloud-based systems eliminate the burden of maintaining on-premises systems. That means the technology provider takes care of updates, analytics and cyber security measures, rather than placing that on the healthcare facility. All the doctors and nurses have to worry about is caring for their patients and monitoring them when needed.
Enterprise companies have been taking advantage of this kind of managed services model for years, and the healthcare sector can benefit as well. When the burden is taken off providers, it means better care for patients.
With the patient population continuing to grow, and doctor shortages in rural and urban areas, virtual care is set to make a huge impact on the way medicine is delivered—not only for patients, but also for the providers who want to offer the best care possible regardless of their location.
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