Connected Health is Healthcare Providers’ Field of Dreams

The past year has driven a rebirth of sort for the healthcare industry and, more specifically, connected health.  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 while traditional services were primarily cast aside.  While 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.

Better Patient Engagement

Connected health makes interaction easier for providers and patients and enables them to leverage whichever channels or tools are most convenient or appropriate for each interaction.  Increased communication combined with the data from connected devices – including mobile phones, wearable tech, and purpose-built health data monitoring devices – can drive patient awareness of their health conditions and promote self-management.

Care Coordination

Connected health tools enable providers to share information with other caregivers more effectively, including home healthcare providers, specialists, and family members, enabling better and more timely coordination or treatment.  Providers can also help reduce duplication and conflicting treatment by leveraging collaboration tools within their connected health platforms.

Data-driven Clinical Decisions

Good healthcare decisions rely on data.  Connected health solutions generate a tremendous amount of data that can be stored centrally in EHRs.  With a single source for all patient information, physicians have a complete picture of patient health when making clinical decisions.  The increased data can also be combined with other patients’ information to generate more extensive data sets to drive more accurate and faster diagnoses and treatment recommendations.

Population Health Programs

Health information data can be combined with additional information sources to support population health initiatives.  By understanding health conditions across different population groups, healthcare providers, researchers, and governments can better understand broad health trends, their underlying causes, ways to react quickly and effectively, and possibly even avoid widespread health issues.

Cost Reduction

While the cost of individual telehealth visits may not be lower than in-person visits – regulatory agencies continue to work to understand to what extent pay parity should apply and formulate guidance.  But, patients benefit from reduced travel and time commitments and associated costs.  However, better management of health needs can have a direct, positive impact on healthcare costs by reducing health complications.  In addition, providers may be able to increase their patient base through connected health, either by widening their geographic reach or simply increasing the number of patients they can treat thanks to operational efficiencies.

Despite the benefits, providers shouldn’t expect everyone to jump on the connected health bandwagon.  There are still several patients who prefer in-person visits, but there’s a clear generational difference:  the younger the patient, the lower the desire to see doctors in person as a rule.  There will always be a need for in-person care depending on individual conditions and preferences, but, given what we have already seen, there’s little doubt that connected health will continue to grow.

Patients already like it and will continue to use it.  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 towards 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.

To learn more about how to successfully delivery connected health services, connect with us here.