Connected Health: Much More Than a Convenient Alternative to Office Visits

When most people think of telehealth, there’s a good chance they are thinking about having a video call with a doctor. That’s certainly part of the broad connected health toolset, and one that has gotten significant attention over the past year and has enabled millions of patients to receive care when in-person visits weren’t an option.

What’s important to note is that, while virtual visits became a necessity during the pandemic, they were also successful – 75% of first-time telehealth users were very or completely satisfied with their experiences.

That shouldn’t be surprising, given the potential benefits of connected health to both patients and providers. Across the healthcare ecosystem, connected health tools can support provider and patient needs with a variety of benefits, such as:

But, it’s not just about extraordinary circumstances, such as a pandemic. Even as conditions around COVID-19 get progressively better, there are many instances where connected health technologies may enable healthcare providers to provide quality care at least as well as they could in-person, if not better. In fact, what’s perhaps even more telling is patient satisfaction with their initial telehealth engagements with 50% saying they would be willing to switch providers to have virtual visits regularly.

Connected health also isn’t just about virtual visits – though that certainly play a large role in creating convenient access to care. The benefits of connected health extend to many healthcare delivery circumstances and settings, and can be leveraged to support many different conditions and healthcare needs. The question isn’t in what settings can connected health be beneficial, but where might it not create a better system? The answer is very few, if any. In fact, connected health can be implemented in just about any healthcare setting or need.

Clinical Efficiency

Using automation tools and patient data, healthcare providers can increase their operational efficiency, including prioritizing patients based on their risk level. This can help deliver care more effectively, while also addressing capacity constraints in busy locations by streamlining care more effectively. Even in mobile settings, emergency responders can use connected health for immediate consultations, access patient records on-site, send patient data to healthcare facilities, all to ensure they are able to deliver the best possible care. At home, too, patients may be able to leverage digital tools to provide health information to their physicians and streamline visits – whether in-office or virtual.

Diagnostic Testing

One of the things the COVID-19 pandemic showed is that home-based testing is a viable option in many instances. While some samples still have to be sent out to labs for diagnostics, testing device companies are actively working towards providing complete in-home testing for some needs. By using easily administered home testing tools, healthcare providers can make testing more convenient, efficient, and cost-effective.

Remote Patient Monitoring

RPM solutions can help providers manage a variety of patients, from short-term post-discharge monitoring to long-term management of chronic conditions. Connected devices – whether wearables, handheld, or others – can deliver a variety of patient data to help providers track progress, medication compliance, activity, and other health factors. Not only can they provide more frequent data than through office visits only, they can allow patients to recover or live comfortably at home rather than having to constantly get to and from doctors’ offices. And, providers are able to manage more patients efficiently using automated solutions.

Primary Care

Healthcare providers can leverage telehealth to simplify scheduling and make appointments more convenient for patients and reduce the time and cost associated with office visits. At the same time, they can reduce the administrative burden on staff and increase availability of in-office appointments for those who need them. Connected health solutions can also allow providers to make quality care more accessible and expand their reach into new patient populations. As digital health tools become increasingly common, they can help turn reactive healthcare into proactive, preventative models.

Acute Care

Connected health tools can help providers operate more efficiently and administer on-site care more effectively. Using AI-driven analytics, digital asset tracking, remote monitoring, remote care and consultations, and other tools, providers can drive greater operational efficiency, maximize resource utilization, and deliver better care.

Follow-up Care

Many patients require follow-up visits with providers following any number of procedures or initial visits. Many of them can be handled conveniently through virtual visits, which can be easier to schedule and take less time, allowing providers to see more patients during their shifts. Virtual follow-ups can also free up availability for other patients with acute needs, increasing the overall efficiency of the healthcare system and helping ensure patients can get care when they need it. Providers can also leverage other connected health tools for follow-up communications, like chat, phone, patient portals and apps – including automated messages and check-ins.

Chronic Care

Using a combination of RPM devices and virtual visits, providers can use connected health solutions to effectively monitor and manage chronic conditions. Remote monitoring tools can record and transmit a wide range of health data – from heart rate to blood pressure to blood glucose levels to activity and much more. These data points can help providers better understand changes in patient conditions, their reaction to medication and treatment plans, and can immediately alert physicians when conditions indicate elevated risk, so they can intervene immediately. Telehealth visits can make it easy for providers to engage patients if an alert is triggered, or to simply follow up on a regular basis, rather than requiring patients to make office visits.

Mental Health

The prevalence of mental health conditions has been well documented, and the past year has increased the demand for mental health care in general, and for anxiety and depression specifically. In January of 2021, the percentage of adults reporting symptoms of anxiety of depression disorders had increased by almost 300% compared to the first half of 2019. Telehealth solutions can make mental health care more accessible and make it easier for patients to overcome the challenges of seeking treatment.

With such a broad range of healthcare settings where connected health solutions can be leveraged effectively, the appeal to both providers and patients should be that it cannot only build greater efficiency into a system that has been plagued by bottlenecks for years, but increase access to quality care to all patients. The momentum is building and providers have an opportunity to take the lessons learned from the past year to drive long-term improvements in their practices.

With the right technologies in place, providers can introduce new connected health services, and introduce them to patient populations slowly to help ensure effective adoption and positive results. As patients, physicians, and staff become increasingly familiar with these new healthcare delivery methods, the benefits can go a long way towards creating a new, modern, technology-driven and patient-centric healthcare system.

To learn more about how connected health solutions can improve care delivery and outcomes, connect with us here.