Providing Virtual Care To Your Patients: Is It Indeed Effective?
As people are looking for the best ways to access care online, virtual care has become one of the most adopted technologies for healthcare organizations. The huge growth of virtual care, telehealth and telemedicine solutions revealed to providers many of the benefits these programs can have both for them and their patients.
Even after the pandemic subsides, virtual care is expected to continue to be a core part of most healthcare organizations' practice. In addition to improving the timeliness of care delivery and providing greater access to those living in more remote settings, virtual care might also drive down your operating costs.
What is virtual healthcare?
Virtual healthcare refers to the “virtual visits” that take place between patients and clinicians via communications technology — the video and audio connectivity that allows “virtual” meetings to occur in real-time, from virtually any location.
A virtual visit can be a videoconference between a doctor and a patient at home. It could mean that a patient can interact with an offsite medical specialist via a high-definition conference hookup at his or her local clinic, instead of traveling to another city. It can also give patients the chance to more readily find qualified second opinions online.
Thus far, virtual healthcare has been used chiefly for meetings and consultations, check-ins, and status reports, rather than for in-depth diagnosis or treatments. Still, as technology evolves, more serious conditions like diabetes are falling under the influence of virtual healthcare.
Virtual healthcare also better enables specialists to monitor situations or procedures from remote locations. Patient monitoring at home has also been shown to be useful for treating patients with chronic conditions like diabetes and hypertension, where rehospitalizations too often occur due to a lack of communication or transparency about the patient’s condition.
Perhaps the most salient benefit that virtual care offers patients is convenience. Instead of traveling to and from a hospital, clinic, or another healthcare facility to meet a doctor or clinician, virtual visits empower people to confer with their caregivers from the comfort of their own homes.
How virtual care benefits your patients?
Virtual care provides several benefits to your organization by helping you expand patient access to your services and meet the growing demand for virtual services.
Among providers that adopted virtual care strategies during the pandemic, their experience has been overwhelmingly positive. According to a survey conducted by the COVID-19 Healthcare Coalition, large majorities of these providers reported that:
- Patients responded favorably to virtual care programs.
- They give patients better access to care.
- There was an improvement in the timeliness of care.
- It enables them to deliver better quality care for a range of services.
Some of these figures were higher for providers serving rural areas, highlighting the level of access virtual care affords people in more remote communities.
This survey also suggests an important financial benefit for both patients and providers. Around 61% of all respondents reported that telehealth improved the cost of care for patients, while 56% said that it improved the financial health of their practice.
Virtual care and telemedicine
The terms virtual care, telemedicine and telehealth are related, but not the same, so it's not correct to use them interchangeably.
Similar to telehealth, virtual care is a broad term that refers to any communication that takes place between healthcare provider and their patients. It differs from telehealth, however, in that telehealth typically refers to any healthcare-related communications conducted over digital channels, whether or not they involve direct contact with providers.
Telehealth can also include virtual communications between different providers, whether through meetings, training, or health education.
These definitions are still fluid and are constantly changing, but at this point, virtual care tends mostly to include meetings and consultation sessions, checkups, and status reports between physician and patient.
By contrast, telemedicine is more specific and refers to a doctor engaging in a remote clinical examination and communicating with the patient to diagnose and outline a treatment plan via any number of digital channels. For that reason, telemedicine usually involves the use of medical devices and more direct, clinical communications between patients and providers.
The Covid-19 pandemic has changed the way patients interact with their healthcare providers and access care. To stay ahead in today’s digital environment, your healthcare organizations need to integrate virtual care into their existing model.
Ready to implement telemedicine solutions into your practice? Schedule a demo with Vozo experts today!