During the past year, 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.
Connected health isn’t new, but its growth has been slow before 2020. In year-over-year and monthly comparisons, telehealth usage surged in 2020, including a massive 8,300% increase in private insurance claim lines between April 2019 and April 2020. Medicare also saw a tremendous spike in telehealth usage, showing a rise of 12,000% from the beginning of March to mid-April 2020.
In the process, the healthcare community has learned – patients and providers alike – is modern technology can successfully change how the healthcare system works. 90% of patients say the quality of care was as good as or better than traditional care, and 60% said they want to use telehealth in the future.
Physician perceptions have improved too, and a majority agree that telehealth enables them to deliver quality care across a spectrum of conditions they have treated with telehealth, including:
- Chronic disease management (89%)
- Preventative care (80%)
- Acute care (62%)
- Hospital/ED follow-up (78%)
- Care coordination (89%)
- Mental/behavioral health (83%)
Despite being driven by necessity, the result has been largely positive. It shows that, even as conditions improve, connected health can benefit the healthcare industry as 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 (second only to reimbursement) to continued telehealth utilization.
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 towards 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, keeping in mind 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 health within their practices, providers need a defined strategy that defines 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 can be 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. The evaluation process can also help providers determine if their connected health platforms can meet their current and future objectives. As digital healthcare continues to evolve, they may find they need.
Integration of Healthcare Tools and Systems
One of the benefits of connected health is that, by definition, they 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.
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. Connected health usage has grown significantly during a time of need. To drive continued success and growth, providers have to take 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.
To learn more about how connected health can improve care delivery and how to make the right technology decisions, connect with us here.