In a study of 2,000 adults from around the United States, two-thirds of respondents stated that COVID-19 increased their willingness to try telehealth in the future. This is in comparison to about 25 percent who expressed they hadn’t previously considered it an option.
Telehealth utilization was on the rise before COVID-19 insidiously made its way into the United States. However, the pandemic has catapulted it into the spotlight as many Americans continue to attempt to stay away from doctors’ offices and hospitals for fear of contracting the acutely contagious virus.
Fortunately, virtualization along with the shift from fee-for-service to value-based care paved the way for these real-time interactions between providers and patients. Gartner defines virtualization as “the abstraction of IT resources that masks the physical nature and boundaries of those resources from resource users.”
Capabilities of Virtual Care
Even before the spread of COVID-19, there was an increasing demand for virtualization of care delivery. Healthcare providers of all sizes are using at least some form of virtualization, primarily because it lets physicians and other clinicians access patient data on most any device wherever they are.
Some employ it to bolster patient engagement. As an article in Patient Engagement HIT explains, patients who are fully engaged in their care are more likely to maintain treatment plans, track their health and ask their provider(s) questions.
A virtual care environment via telehealth might include remote patient monitoring, video conferencing and mHealth (mobile health) or a combination of these capabilities. Though some doctors initially doubted the efficacy of telehealth, Deloitte published a study that found that 90 percent of physicians agree that virtual care is beneficial in terms of increased access, communication and satisfaction. Perhaps that is because virtual care is now more of a seamless part of workflow for many physicians.
On the IT side, virtualization allows providers to securely store patient data, combine data from disparate sources, control access to sensitive information, streamline resource management, promote HIPAA compliance and accelerate deployment of applications. Instead of investing in expensive hardware and selecting software based on that expenditure, they can utilize solutions to fit their specific needs, thereby reducing costs while increasing network flexibility. Plus, virtualization provides cost-efficient scalability and can be used as a backup for disaster recovery purposes.
Perks for Patients
For patients, the advantages of virtualization in healthcare are many, especially as it applies to telehealth. Probably the primary one is convenient access to care. Virtual care offers an affordable option for those who live in rural areas or otherwise wouldn’t or couldn’t typically seek preventive and medical care.
Another benefit is reduced cost. In some cases, telehealth is less expensive than in-person visits with physicians. As you already know, affordability of healthcare is very problematic in the United States - multiple new studies show that many Americans are struggling with rising healthcare costs and paying for their patient financial responsibility. Approximately 22 percent of Americans recently say they or a close family member have avoided healthcare services because of the cost.
Patients who would otherwise head to an emergency department for a non-critical injury or illness can avail themselves of telehealth, saving them both time and money. Follow-up care and monitoring both can be achieved through virtual care, negating the issue of long and unnecessary wait times.
Clinician Communication and Collaboration
Some healthcare providers might not realize the competitive advantage produced by implementing virtual care. By improving their clinical workflow, they’re often able to see more patients in less time. Not only does this positively affect their reimbursement, it boosts patient satisfaction.
Telehealth and other forms of virtual care also provide clinicians with enhanced capability to communicate and collaborate with other physicians on patient care, securely access shared records from a mobile device, ensure continuity of care, accurately record clinical information and close gaps in care.
Engaging in Virtualization with Epion Health
Proactively investing in virtualization will enable healthcare providers to meet the needs of patients without having to scramble for additional resources when a spike in cases occurs. When deciding on a telehealth option to augment a practice, though, it’s important to select one that easily integrates with existing technology and doesn’t require extensive training to use.
Our telehealth solution helps physician practices and ambulatory clinics provide anytime, anywhere care for enhanced efficiency and increased engagement and revenue. Start a trial today to see what a positive impact Epion can have for both you and your patients!