The Ultimate Guide to Connected Healthcare

An In-Depth Look at the Impact of Connected Health

Connected Health is the new frontier in healthcare. The industry’s digital revolution has been unfolding rapidly for decades; healthcare organizations are now faced with the challenge of constantly adapting while trying to maintain the high-quality patient care that they have always offered.

A representation of a new way of delivering care, connected health presents an opportunity for healthcare providers to be on the cutting edge of innovation while making a positive impact on patient outcomes.

Trapollo’s Ultimate Guide to Connected Health is a comprehensive look at what Connected Health is, how it came to be, why it’s here to stay, and how it might look in the future.

What Is Connected Healthcare?

Telehealth Remote Patient Engagement

Connected healthcare is formally defined as an emerging field that uses technology to advance patient care. Technology has repeatedly changed the face of medicine and introduced the potential for new models of care delivery. Connecting patients with providers can help promote self-care and better monitoring of chronic conditions.

Not only is it great for patient outcomes, but connected healthcare also benefits providers by improving efficiency and enhancing revenue streams, among other advantages. The cost savings are significant, and it’s becoming a standard model for delivering care in the future. Connected healthcare is just one example of how technology is changing the way we live today.

The Role of Connected Health in Creating a Healthier Society

wearable medical devices connected health

The healthcare system continues to be plagued by inefficiencies impacting both cost and quality of care. Technology, however, is changing the way healthcare is delivered, enabling more efficient operations, better physician-patient relationships, and an opportunity for better outcomes, and a generally healthier society. At the same time, connected health can help reduce the burden on many healthcare facilities by replacing in-person care with virtual care.

  • Up to 20% of emergency department visits could be handled with virtual urgent care
  • Almost a quarter of office visits and outpatient care could be done virtually
  • Up to 35% of home health services could be virtualized

New technologies are creating opportunities to positively impact individual patient outcomes and general health trends, while also helps providers better manage their patient populations. See below for examples on how Connected Health Solutions open doors.

Physician Collaboration

Connected health solutions, including video conferencing, store-and-forward, remote patient monitoring, and EHRs can make it easier for physicians to streamline and collaborate with one another on patient care.

Care Access

Increased access to specialists and primary care providers is yet another benefit of connected health. By enabling patients to see physicians using telehealth, providers can reduce the time and cost of traditional in-person visits, often making it easier to schedule appointments, which can be taken from anywhere. Through better access, providers can reduce missed visits, and even routine care can become less of a burden, increasing the likelihood that patients will make and keep appointments that can help them better manage their health.

Patient Engagement

Providers can use connected health solutions to increase touchpoints with patients, including updating them on treatment plans and providing easy access when patients have questions. By leveraging multiple communications channels and providing access to patient records, providers can drive patient engagement and involvement in their own wellness. Increased interaction can also give providers greater insight into a variety of data points that can impact health, including those that can be integrated into datasets for population health research.

Preventative Care

Tools like remote patient monitoring can help deliver earlier diagnoses of potential problems, allowing concerns to be addressed before they become serious issues. Combined with increased patient engagement, physicians can more effectively monitor patient conditions and response to treatment to avoid complications that could lead to hospitalization, or worse.

Population Health

Increased interactions, remote patient monitoring devices, telehealth visits, patient surveys and portals, and other available data sources can quickly build a massive data repository. By adding artificial intelligence to the mix, this information can quickly be analyzed to help diagnose individual patients, as well as for monitoring broader health trends among population groups.

AI can help providers, pharmaceutical firms, insurers, government agencies, and others to better understand how different treatments, behavioral variances, socioeconomic factors, and other variables impact specific conditions and general health. This data-driven insight can then be used to develop and implement effective population health strategies.

Physician Burden

Medical professionals continue to be impacted by high burnout and stress rates, largely driven by administrative tasks. By automating data entry and transfer processes, scheduling, reminders, and other traditionally manual tasks, connected health solutions can reduce the administrative burden and allow physicians to treat more patients in a shorter amount of time, which might lead to increased job satisfaction.

Connected Health is Here to Stay

Connected Health Care Accessibility

With the onset of COVID-19, the healthcare industry was forced into adopting new technologies for treating patients. It’s not that the technologies themselves were new – connected health has been around for years, but adoption rates were lower than expected – until it became a necessity.

The debate more recently has been what will the healthcare landscape look like going forward, now that the entire industry has had significant experience with connected health and enjoyed many of the benefits connected health can deliver, like:

  • New business models – Healthcare providers can expand service offerings to new patient populations and geographies with greater flexibility in hours and location without the limitations of traditional in-person models.
  • Increased patient engagement – Tools like virtual visits, patient portals and Remote Patient Monitoring can increase interactions with patients without adding time or cost (particularly with patients suffering from chronic conditions).
  • Greater access to care – With a shortage of medical professionals, connected health can enable access to quality care for patients, eliminating geographic and travel barriers.
  • Efficiency improvements – Automation and artificial intelligence can improve clinical and administrative workflows and allow medical professionals to spend more time with patients – either virtual or in-person.
  • Revenue opportunities – Because connected health drives efficiency, providers may be able to treat more patients, in addition to expanding into new areas.
  • Lower cost – Both providers and patients can enjoy cost reductions. Patients can reduce travel-related expenses and time off from work. Well before 2020, Oregon Health & Science University says it saved 970 telehealth patients $6.4 million in travel costs. Since virtual visits typically cost less than in-person, providers also save (in addition to efficiency gains).
  • Care quality improvements – By increasing access to and timeliness of care through virtual visits and RPM, physicians can reduce additional office or ER visits. Through increased engagement, they can also help patients become more involved in their own care.

Key Insight

Connected Health delivers cost-saving benefits to patients and providers alike. Improved access to care means patients save on transportation costs and time spent away from work, while providers benefit from diversified revenue streams and the streamlined ability to see more patients throughout the day.

Physician Satisfaction

Satisfaction from virtual care extends beyond patients. Physicians, too, see connected health as a key part of healthcare delivery and express similar sentiments regarding future use of connected health. More than two-thirds are personally motivated to increase their use of telehealth. In fact, the services they are most interested in continuing to deliver virtually are very much in line with how patients see their future healthcare experiences.

  • 73% Chronic Disease Management
  • 64% Meditation Management
  • 60% Care
    Coordination
  • 53% Preventative
    Care
  • 48% Hospital or Emergency Care Follow-ups

Improving Care Delivery Through Connected Health

Telehealth Innovation for Improved Healthcare

To a large extent, recent connected health growth has been driven by the increased use of virtual visits, as in-person care wasn’t always an option during the global pandemic. For example, the CDC reported that, in Q1 2020, telehealth visits grew 50% year over year, including a massive 154% increase in one week, in particular. Across the healthcare industry, many organizations have reported significant increases in virtual visits since March 2020.

The most significant use of connected health solutions, by a wide margin, has been live video and/or voice interactions between patients and physicians.

  • 80% of physicians report using live video with at-home patients
  • 70% of physicians report audio-only interactions with patients

There’s no question the ability to engage patients through live voice and video technologies enabled patients to continue delivering care to patients during an unprecedented period. Overwhelmingly, it was a very successful period for connected health, with 96% of patients who had telehealth visits saying they either have already had additional telehealth visits or would consider scheduling additional telehealth visits.

But, while what happened in 2020 and beyond is a testament to how virtual visits can increase access to healthcare services and make appointments more convenient and cost-effective, connected health can bring value to the healthcare industry in many ways beyond virtual visits.

Remote Patient Monitoring

The ability to monitor patient conditions and health data remotely – without having to schedule repeated office visits–can allow both physicians and patients to better understand patient conditions and response to treatment.

Adding automation technologies can further increase process efficiency by delivering patient data directly into EHRs and generating alerts when intervention may be required. RPM can be used to help manage a variety of conditions, including many chronic diseases, as well as to monitor post-procedural patients at home, rather than requiring extended hospital stays.

Process Automation

In addition to RPM-related automation, tools to automate other tasks can increase operational efficiency and allow physicians and staff to spend more time working directly with patients. Automating repetitive, predictable tasks, like data entry, scheduling, patient communication, delivery of patient information (including images and other data) to collaborating physicians, patient data analytics (including the use of artificial intelligence to increase accuracy), billing, transcription of physicians’ notes, and more, can reduce the administrative burden and allow medical professionals to focus on health outcomes.

Collaborative Care

There are many reasons for physicians to collaborate, as previously asserted. Often, patients receive care from multiple physicians, who may need to collaborate on the best treatment plans, changes in medication, or other needs. Or, physicians may simply want a second opinion when viewing images or test results to help determine the next steps with patients. Connected health enables simple sharing of patient data and imaging files to make collaboration between physicians easy.

Prescriptions

When providers, physicians, and patients are all connected digitally, the entire prescription process can be simplified. Physicians can easily send prescriptions to be filled; patients can be automatically notified when their prescriptions have been filled and when refills are ready, and patients can access information about their medications.

Analytics

The healthcare system produces massive amounts of data. Each patient interaction adds new information that could be valuable for understanding and treating conditions, understanding health trends based on various demographic segmentation, developing new treatments, and supporting broad healthcare initiatives, like population health programs. Artificial intelligence can increase the speed of these analyses and can reduce human error, allowing physicians to react more rapidly to patient needs.

This is only the beginning of how connected health can change the healthcare industry. As helpful as virtual visits have been–and clearly patients and physicians both see their value–a more holistic connected health strategy can truly take the healthcare system into a new, modernized, data-driven cycle.

Digitizing the entire healthcare practice can create more efficient practices, increased patient engagement, better doctor-patient relationships, and enable better health outcomes as a result.

Transforming the Traditional Healthcare System

examples of connected healthcare

They say necessity is the mother of invention. While the healthcare industry has evolved over the years, it hasn’t yet reached the point of hyper-connectivity that could truly change the entire healthcare delivery system. In fact, for many people, the healthcare experience hadn’t changed much before 2020, when connected health took center stage out of necessity and drove people to leverage connected health services for many of their healthcare needs.

With that, the sentiment around connected health is changing as patients and healthcare providers both gain awareness and appreciation for the benefits of connected health and, perhaps more importantly, enjoy those benefits through firsthand experience. Not only are patients happy with their experiences, they are also expecting to continue using connected health services in the future:

  • Patients are very satisfied with their telehealth experiences (79%)
  • Patients also say their physicians were thorough during their telehealth sessions (81%)
  • Quality of communication between physicians and patients is good using connected health (83%)
  • Patient will continue to seek care through connected health (73%)

It’s clear that the telehealth experience has been positive and is expected to continue to support individual patients’ needs. But, its value extends deeper into the healthcare system by creating opportunities for better results and improved satisfaction.

Using connected health solutions, physicians can communicate more effectively with patients and can support better health decisions and create better healthcare journeys. But, beyond individual patient needs, the broader adoption of connected health – and a truly connected healthcare ecosystem – can drive improvements in the healthcare system at large, supported by new data sources, analytics capabilities, and communications strategies.

Agile Care

Connected health can take geography out of the picture and enable healthcare anywhere. As opposed to always having to physically go to a physician’s office or other healthcare facility, patients can seek treatment or consultation through connected health services. With connected health, the care delivery space can be expanded from traditional locations to anywhere patients or physicians can connect–homes, offices, hotel rooms, even cars.

Altogether, patients can have access to care when and where it’s most convenient for them, physicians can treat patients more efficiently and, in general, the healthcare ecosystem can become more agile in its ability to react quickly and effectively to patient needs. That includes freeing up more in-person appointments or emergency departments capacity for patients who require in-person care.

Error Reduction

Because connected health solutions can support data delivery directly from patient and provider devices into EHRs and larger databases, human data entry errors can be minimized. That can help physicians create more effective treatment plans based on accurate data. Using AI to support data and imaging analysis, physicians can also make faster and more accurate diagnoses. Physicians can also leverage larger aggregate data sets and AI-based analytics to drive data-driven healthcare decisions that can be faster and more effective.

Growth and Innovation

One of the major benefits to the healthcare industry at large is the massive amount of data generated by connected health systems. This data can be used to drive innovative care and treatment options, to better understand medical conditions and trends that could help researchers develop new treatments for conditions. As connected health adoption continues to grow, new tools, devices, sensors, and use cases will continue to emerge that can drive even more data-driven innovation, ultimately leading to a healthier society overall.

The healthcare industry, which has struggled to overcome inefficiencies for years, is suddenly changing rapidly. It is shifting its model from a traditional in-person model to embrace virtual care options and data-driven outcomes. While the initial driver may have been survival, the benefits patients and providers have realized have been documented and represent an opportunity to create a new digital healthcare system that combines the best aspects of traditional care with digital health technologies to create new opportunities to build a better healthcare environment.

Healthcare Providers and Connected Health

accessible connected health care

Telehealth and other connected health services aren’t new, but their adoption was slow before the pandemic, which drove millions of people to seek effective alternatives to traditional care models.

By and large, it worked, as patients were able to receive or continue treatment, while providers had a new revenue stream and traditional services were primarily cast aside. Although the sheer volume of connected health usage is impressive, perhaps even more critical in terms of its future is the fact that 77% of patients are willing to use telehealth going forward.

Virtual video visits lead the way in terms of satisfaction. While patients are generally satisfied with their telehealth experiences across different communications mediums (live video or voice, web/mobile app, photo/recorded video, email, text message), live video is ahead of all others with an 89% satisfaction rate. Also, most patients put their telehealth interactions at least on the same level as in-person experiences, but 53% go as far as saying their live video visits were better than in-person appointments.

What’s essential for healthcare providers to know is that patients primarily look to their doctors first for connected health services before looking at what their insurance carriers, other healthcare providers, or their employers offer.

The message is clear. Patients like connected health and their preference is for their providers to offer those services. Beyond meeting patient demand and driving satisfaction, providers can win additional benefits by adopting or enhancing connected health programs.

As digital natives continue to grow as a percentage of the population, the balance will continue to tip towards digital healthcare. The potential benefits to both providers and patients point toward connected health as a must-have in healthcare practices, which means providers should be looking at how to launch or build their services effectively. The message from patients is simple: If providers offer connected health services, patients will use them.

Connected Health in Action

televisits for healthcare

From routine telehealth visits, to monitoring chronic conditions, to alleviating the stress of caring for a family member – connected health is multifaceted in its functions and value. Discover just some of the ways connected health comes to life.

Home-Based Healthcare

Healthcare from Your Home

As people age, their healthcare needs can become more challenging, and they require more attention. For instance, while only 7% of 18-44 year-olds suffer from multiple chronic conditions, 25% of 45-64 year-olds do, and that number increases to 52% for those older than 65. As the elderly population continues to grow, and as the existing physician shortage also increases, the healthcare community faces the challenge of meeting the growing demand for services.

There’s another factor that impacts this process as older adults want to live at home. More than three-quarters of Americans older than 50 want to remain in their homes or communities as long as possible, which means they need regular access to healthcare services. There needs to be a balance between healthcare needs and living at home, which is where the home-based care model comes into play.

About 2.3 million people provide in-home care for older Americans. Also, there’s a significantly larger group of 34 million Americans who provide unpaid care to older adults, most of whom are family members. That’s not surprising, given that older Americans expect their long-term needs to be provided by family members rather than professionals.

For both groups of caregivers – but especially for a large number of family caregivers – technology could provide a solution to creating that balance. Connected health services can offer a new model for effective care that ensures access, care continuity, and cost-effectiveness. Using new tools, healthcare providers can deliver a range of health services, from diagnoses to therapy to disease management – services that traditionally would be provided through in-person care – while reducing the time and cost burden on patients, providers, and caregivers.

Primary Care

As people age, their healthcare needs can become more complex, requiring support from multiple specialists in addition to their primary physicians. Connected health enables these providers to collaborate and share information digitally through telehealth systems and EHRs, to ensure consistent and appropriate care is delivered and complications due to conflicting treatments can be avoided.

Rather than visiting multiple doctors in-person or even having to participate in numerous virtual visits, telehealth can bring different clinicians together for a single virtual visit to save time and provide a complete picture for patients and their caregivers at once.

Chronic Disease Management

Chronic disease patients often need very regular care, which can become a burden for their families, providers, and other caregivers. Telehealth enables regular virtual visits at whatever frequency is required, or even ad hoc consultations when needed, without dealing with office visits. RPM devices can transmit health data into integrated EHRs, where providers can access them during or before visits, providing a constant stream of updated data to support patient care. Connected health creates an opportunity for higher engagement levels between physicians and patients to more effectively manage chronic conditions.

Transitional Care

When patients are discharged from hospitals or other facilities, they may require post-procedure monitoring to require frequent office visits or longer hospitalization traditionally. Remote patient monitoring can reduce hospital stays and in-person visits while increasing the frequency of data around health statistics – blood pressure, heart rate, temperature, weight, activity levels, etc.

RPM devices can record and deliver patient data frequently, so providers can quickly review them and contact patients directly with any comments or concerns. Automated alerts can be set up to immediately alert providers if measurements reach specific thresholds and patients require immediate attention. Virtual visits can support RPM by enabling regular check-ins.

Support for Family Caregivers

Older patients may have family members helping attend to healthcare needs. Those people likely have other responsibilities as well, including work and supporting their families. Digital healthcare tools can provide a layer of information, communication, and access to help reduce the burden on those family caregivers and enable them the freedom to live their own lives while successfully supporting older parents or grandparents.

Setting up telehealth visits, for instance, is much simpler and cost-effective than having to transport patients to doctors’ offices. Patient portals can also make scheduling, information exchange, and form completion much more accessible and convenient. It ensures caregivers have the information and skills they need to support their older family members, including quickly asking questions about their care.

It’s inevitable, people will age, and the numbers are clear; as that happens, health needs increase, which increases the burden on the providers and caregivers. Home-based care in an age of technology can help manage that burden and help older adults continue to live at home while receiving the care they need.

Mental Health Services

Virtual Connected Health Care

Mental health is a growing concern. The percentage of Americans suffering from some form of mental health condition increased from 17.9% in 2015 to 20.6% in 2019. Prior to 2015, the figure had been consistent for seven years. Even more troubling is the fact that less than 48% of those adults received treatment for their conditions, and about a quarter recognize they need treatment but have been unable to get it.

Since March of 2020, though, the situation worsened as the number of people taking anxiety and depression screenings jumped by 93% and 62% respectively. In September, 37% of people taking mental health screens experienced frequent suicidal ideations. The increase shouldn’t be surprising, given the isolation and lack of social interaction throughout most of 2020.

But, as it has in other areas of healthcare, connected health has created new opportunities for care, and many patients have been able to seek or continue treatment thanks to the increased availability of telehealth services. As in-person interactions were shut down in 2020, 81% of behavioral health providers launched new telehealth services. Looking forward, 94% of behavioral health providers want to continue offering telehealth services.

Behavioral health patients, in fact, led the way in terms of telehealth usage. While patients with pre-existing physical health conditions have leveraged telehealth more frequently (43%), behavioral health interactions have been more prevalent at a 54% rate – an increase of 39% from prior reports.

Does it work? According to providers, it does. Overwhelmingly, behavioral health providers believe telehealth platforms have no negative impact on treatment effectiveness, and more than a third say it actually improves results.

Specifically, behavioral and mental health providers say telehealth has:

  • Improved patient health (71%)
  • Improved patient safety (83%)
  • Improved timeliness of care (85%)
  • Improved access to care (72%)
  • Reduced cost of care for patients (48%), with an additional 34% saying it neither increased or decreased costs
  • Been received favorably by patients (83%)

Based on the results, it’s not surprising that almost half of patients want to continue using telehealth going forward, even if in-person appointments are available, given the benefits.

Stigma Reduction

One of the fears patients have is the stigma that has traditionally been attached to mental health issues. Telehealth visits can help overcome that challenge by enabling treatment from the privacy of a home or office, without anyone else knowing they are receiving support for mental health conditions. As a result, many may be more willing to seek treatment.

Crisis Management

When patients experience crises – severe anxiety, depression, suicidal ideations, or other major situations – telehealth can provide access to providers, who can provide immediate intervention to reduce any imminent threat.

There’s no question that behavioral health is a challenge – and it doesn’t always receive the same attention as other health conditions. Connected health solutions can allow providers to offer an alternative to traditional in-person visits to either supplement or replace in-person treatment. Based on recent evidence, patients and providers both see value in making mental health care more accessible through telehealth.

Creating a Positive Connected Health Experience

How to Improve Connected Health Experience

Experience is everything. In today’s digital economy, traditional values like product and brand are being overtaken by experience as differentiating factors. In healthcare, while quality of care is always imperative, patient experience can be a natural factor in forming long-term patient-physician relationships. In fact, patients are likely to consider friendliness and attitude when selecting their physicians.

The healthcare system, though, has evolved. Both physicians and patients have access to various technologies that can enable better communication and convenient access to healthcare services. Connected health tools, in particular, have emerged as a viable alternative to traditional care models over the past year.

Not only has the use of connected health tools increased, but most physicians believe they have created better access to care and that patients have reacted positively to them. As a result, both physicians (68%) and their organizations (71%) are motivated to increase their use of connected health technologies going forward.

Ultimately, as with all healthcare, it still comes down to delivering a positive experience for both patients and providers.

Patient Education as Part of Workflows

Despite their belief that telehealth has had a positive impact on patient care, physicians remain concerned that many patients will have difficulty accessing services. In fact, patient digital literacy remains among the top perceived barriers to increased adoption, according to physicians.

Providers may need to enlist the help of staff members to provide technology training to patients who are trying telehealth for the first time or who have had difficulty in the past. In advance of a scheduled telehealth visit, staff can call patients and walk them through all the steps of a live video interaction to ensure patients are able to connect for their appointments. It may require some additional effort up-front for healthcare providers, but the benefit is a better patient telehealth experience, which can drive additional use in the future.

Awareness of Services

It’s difficult for patients to use services if they don’t know about them. More than a third of patients say they don’t know if their providers or insurance carriers offer telehealth – a figure that jumps to 72% in rural areas, where access to healthcare services can be more difficult. With the increase in usage during the past year, the hope is that more patients are now aware of these services.

Still, providers should continue to promote them, as well as making sure both physicians and patients know how the registration and scheduling process works. Currently, there appears to still be some confusion as to who is responsible for scheduling telehealth visits: The majority of patients think it comes from their physicians, while doctors think it’s their patients’ duty. It’s a misunderstanding that could preclude patients from fully leveraging the healthcare tools at their disposal.

Webside Manner

When it comes to digital experience, familiarity with technology is an imperative. Doctors should know how to use the connected health tools and providers should make sure all involved staff are well versed on their connected health platforms to avoid confusion and delays. But, things like appearance and attitude also matter.

Just because patients and/or physicians aren’t physically in the office doesn’t mean they shouldn’t present professionally. That includes appropriate attire, but it also means understanding how they appear in a digital setting. Lighting, positioning, glare, background, body position, and other controllable variables can factor into patients’ perception of their virtual visits or create distractions that draw their attention away from their healthcare discussions.

Technology Integration

Telehealth integration with EHRs and other technologies, along with telehealth-specific workflows, are among the top challenges physicians see with continued use of telehealth. While tighter integration and well-defined or automated workflows can increase provider efficiency, they can also elevate patient experiences by ensuring physicians are able to quickly and easily access all necessary information before and during patient interactions. For instance, integrated RPM devices that can automatically deliver patient data to EHRs can save time and during visits, reduce errors, and ensure physicians and staff have up-to-date information at all times.

Many factors contribute to patient experience with connected healthcare. Some are consistent with traditional office visits, while others are unique to digital healthcare. Providers have an opportunity to leverage these new tools to enhance their ability to treat patients and improve on some of the operational deficiencies that have plagued the industry for years.

Because experience matters, providers need to make sure they get connected health right. Almost two-thirds of patients who have used telehealth did so on the basis of positive recommendations. Providers who are able to deliver positive connected health experiences create opportunities for patients to promote those services to others, helping increase their use and value.

Bringing Connected Health to Life

Implement Connected Health Care in Your Practice

During and post-pandemic, healthcare delivery has undergone a significant shift as connected health services paved the way for care continuity amidst our global health crisis. When traditional in-person care was lost, connected health ensured physicians could continue treating patients using technology.

In Your Own Practice

Despite being driven by necessity, the results of connected health have been largely positive. It shows that, even as conditions improve, connected health can benefit the healthcare industry, so long as providers continue to improve the patient experience. As programs evolve, there are steps providers can take to ensure a positive experience so, when given a choice between in-person and telehealth, patients don’t feel they are choosing between differences in care quality.

Improve the Experience

Shorter wait times, elimination of travel, and convenience are all benefits patients can enjoy by using connected health services, but ultimately, the visit itself has to be successful. Physicians say that patient technology challenges will be one of the most significant barriers to continued telehealth utilization, second only to reimbursement

While providers may not be able to overcome all technology barriers, they can ensure that patients understand how their virtual sessions, remote patient monitoring solutions, and other components of connected health programs work. Providing training sessions in advance can go a long way toward increasing patient comfort levels. If patients have in-person visits that will be followed by virtual visits, for instance, a trained staff member can take the time to walk them through a live virtual session before leaving the office, so they see how it works.

Providers can also prepare easy-to-understand documentation, including graphics, showing how to use their connected health tools. Providers need to keep in mind, however, that there may need to be multiple versions for different types of brands of devices.

Similarly, making sure physicians and staff are comfortable with the technology can instill confidence in patients. A simple list of common problems and resolutions can be handy in overcoming simple issues during sessions. Having a technical resource available to address problems immediately can also help increase patient satisfaction.

The same applies to other connected health services, like remote patient monitoring, patient portals, and more. Making sure patients understand their devices and other resources can reduce friction and create better experiences.

Define Connected Health in Your Practice

As they plan for the future of connected healthcare within their practices, providers need a defined strategy that explores how connected health fits their overall healthcare delivery process. Creating clear definitions of which conditions or which patients are best suited for connected health can ensure successful adoption.

Understanding how virtual and traditional care can be combined for the best patient care can save time, drive positive results, and increase patient and physician satisfaction. Some patients may need more frequent in-person visits than others, so flexibility is essential – healthcare is not a one-size-fits-all service.

Likewise, understanding how delivering virtual care impacts how physicians can help optimize scheduling by reducing travel time. Some may prefer to take telehealth visits from their home offices, while others may want to schedule when they are in a particular facility. Taking physician needs into consideration can help increase their work satisfaction, which can also positively impact patients.

Evaluate Success and Growth Opportunities

While providers may have launched their connected health services out of necessity, they should evaluate where they have been successful and where there may be opportunities for improvement. Feedback from patients and staff is an effective tool for understanding what works and what doesn’t.

Using digital tools to ask for feedback – for instance, through a patient portal or mobile app – can also increase the visibility of your connected health tools. This evaluation process can also help providers determine if their connected health platforms meet their current and future objectives. As digital healthcare continues to evolve, they may find they need it.

Integration of Healthcare Tools and Systems

One of the benefits of connected health is that, by definition, the practice can help reduce the manual effort for both patients and providers. However, only 15% of healthcare professionals say their remote sensor technologies – such as those used for remote patient monitoring – feed patient data directly into EHRs or patient portals.

Increasing integration between connected health tools and other healthcare systems can drive ease of use, reduce workload and human error, and simplify care delivery. As with growth opportunities, integration needs can help providers understand which connected health platform is best suited for their practices.

Building on Momentum to Scale Connected Health

In 2020, against the backdrop of a global pandemic, healthcare providers across the country were pushed to rapidly adopt connected health technologies to support patients and sustain revenue streams.

As we have largely learned to live with Covid-19, the question is, how can providers capitalize on the momentum they have built during the past year? Undoubtedly, some patient needs will be best served with in-person visits. But, how can providers keep those patients whose conditions are suitable – or even ideal – for connected health from reverting back to traditional care models? How can providers continue to leverage connected health to drive operational and clinical efficiencies to achieve the benefits connected health can deliver?

Maximize Data Analytics and Automation

Digital healthcare creates a tremendous amount of patient data that can be used to deliver positive patient outcomes. The entire healthcare community, including providers, pharmaceutical firms, and insurance carriers, can leverage connected health data, along with AI-driven analytics and process automation to improve care processes and operate more efficiently.

One problem, however, is that a majority of healthcare organizations are only using a small percentage (20% or less) of available data to drive their analytics and AI solutions. As such, this area leaves much room for improvement.

Defined Value Proposition

With any new technology, adoption is largely dependent upon its value proposition. In order to continue building their connected health programs, providers must clearly define and explain their value both internally to physicians and staff, as well as externally to patients. This represents another opportunity, considering few healthcare organizations are actually looking at telehealth in the context of patient outcomes.

By supporting connected health programs with proven value statements, providers can overcome physician and patient apprehension to drive adoption. It’s also very possible that different patient groups will have different value definitions, requiring different supporting evidence. For instance, younger generations may value convenience and may even be willing to pay more for digital care, while older generations may have a preference towards physicians with whom they’ve built trusted relationships to support their ongoing care.

Build Awareness

In order for patients to be open to digital alternatives to traditional care models, they need to know they exist. Healthcare providers can’t expect patients to ask about them on their own; rather, they should launch ongoing communications campaigns to introduce their programs to patients, including their benefits and value.

These campaigns can include delivering information and service updates through text messages, email campaigns, and patient portals, but should also include physicians promoting connected health during their interactions with patients. Because patients see their doctors as authorities on care, their recommendations can carry significant weight in patients’ willingness to try new care options.

Limit Regression

Naturally, some patient interactions will revert back to traditional in-person visits when they can. For many, it will be a logical decision. Others, however, may simply base decisions on a desire to put everything related to the pandemic behind them, ignoring the benefits of connected health, even if they have had positive experiences.

To continue to support the connected health services they implemented over the past year, providers can require a minimum number of virtual visits or other connected health engagements on a weekly or monthly basis. This will, at the very least, prevent widespread regression of connected health engagements and, instead, will continue to drive value from connected health technology.

Expand Connected Health Programs

While some patients return to in-person care is expected – not every situation is ideal for connected health – providers can build on success and expand their connected health services. By adding new programs, they can introduce new patient populations to connected health and set the stage for even greater growth in the future.

Listen to Feedback

As providers were forced to adopt connected health strategies during the pandemic, for many patients, this was the only reasonable option for care. But, as circumstances continue to evolve and in-person visits become a feasible option, one of the tools providers have for enhancing their virtual care services is feedback from both patients and physicians. Surveying both groups can provide valuable information on how providers can improve what they have already implemented, so they can reinvest in their solutions and truly make connected health a successful, permanent part of their models.

Certainly, there are other driving forces at work, including regulatory reform supported by a growing number of agencies and organizations. Those activities, though, are only part of the path to success. Providers must take measures to protect the investments they’ve already made in connected health technologies and maximize their value.

Brining Your Connected Health Vision to Life With Trapollo

Virtual Healthcare Opportunities

Healthcare, by nature, is not always simple, but new technologies can simplify many of the processes by freeing additional time for other things – including treating more patients.

It’s clear that both providers and patients have enjoyed success using connected health models and see it as a path for continued progress in improving the healthcare system.

By integrating connected health solutions into the modern healthcare landscape, healthcare providers have an opportunity to truly drive a patient-centric, data-driven era of healthcare delivery with optimal outcomes.

To drive continued success and growth, providers have to take the time to develop effective strategies. Understanding patient needs, program successes, and opportunities to drive efficiency improvements can help providers advance their connected health practices and deliver the best possible care.

Contact Trapollo today to let us help you realize your own vision for connected health.

steve-bock-headshot

Steve Bock leads the creation and execution of the company’s technical vision solution roadmap. His responsibilities include solution strategy, product management, product development, strategic partnerships, technical interoperability, IT infrastructure operations, medical device integration, mobile technology, and telehealth.