During the past year, the healthcare industry was forced into adopting new technologies for treating patients during the COVID-19 pandemic. 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.
- 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.
Ultimately, though, it’s about satisfaction and, while there are still plenty of people who favor in-person care, the fact that in most of these areas, the majority of patients are more likely to seek virtual care than in-person visits. Only post-surgical/discharge follow-ups slightly favor in-person visits – but even there, nearly half are interested in using connected health.
- Mental health visits (62%)
- Prescription renewals (62%)
- Urgent care (53%)
- Initial physician meetings (52%)
- Chronic care check-ins (51%)
What this really points to is the reality that healthcare delivery is at an inflection point, where virtual and in-person care are both valuable, depending on the circumstances. There will always be a need for in-person care – some situations will require it, and some patients will prefer it. But, it’s clear the experiences of the past year, and the technologies that are creating a new generation of digital physicians, have generated significant patient demand for connected health services.
But, it’s not just 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 how patients see their future healthcare experiences.
- Chronic disease management (73%)
- Medication management (64%)
- Care coordination (60%)
- Preventative care (53%)
- Hospital or emergency care follow-ups (48%)
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. While virtual visits and other connected health services won’t entirely eliminate the need for in-person treatment, they can improve the overall healthcare deliver ecosystem and reduce some of the bottlenecks that have created challenges over the years.
To understand more about how a connected health solution can help deliver benefits to healthcare practices and their patients, connect with us here.