To a large extent, recent connected health growth has been driven by the increased use of virtual visits – especially during the past 15+ months, as in-person care wasn’t always an option during the global pandemic. For example, the CDC reports 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 during the past year 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.
By giving patients the ability to view and update their health information, contact their healthcare providers, make or change appointments, pay bills, and many other tasks, patients can more easily accomplish tasks, which can also lead them to become more involved in their own care – because they can interact with their providers easily.
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.
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.
There are many reasons for physicians to collaborate. Often, patients receive care from multiple physicians, who may need to collaborate on 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 next steps with patients. Connected health enables simple sharing of patient data and imaging files to make collaboration between physicians easy.
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.
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 segmentations, 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. By integrating connected health solutions into their overall practices – more than just virtual visits – healthcare providers have an opportunity to truly drive a new, patient-centric, data-driven era of healthcare delivery with optimal outcomes.
To learn more about building a comprehensive connected health service offering and how to choose the right platform to support your connected health vision, visit us here.