Telehealth has been available to the general public for decades in one form or another. Whether it’s a parent calling in the middle of the night about a sick child or a student seeking mental health resources, 24-hour hotlines have long been resourced as the first point of contact. For years, this seemed sufficient.
That is, until COVID-19 turned things upside down. While telehealth has provided temporary relief during this time of great uncertainty, it’s also limited in scope to (videoconferencing and other one-off appointments).
On the other hand, Virtual care offers holistic patient treatment. This model is full-service and wider in scope. Physicians and their teams are able to nurture meaningful relationships with their patients: pre-encounter, encounter, and post-encounter. While virtual care was once seen as an added perk to patient-centered service, it’s clear now that virtual care will play an integral role in the future of healthcare in 2021 and beyond by focusing on the needs of patients.
Telehealth has provided a temporary solution.
As the number of COVID cases surged in 2020, the number of telehealth claims in 2020 also soared to a staggering 2,938%. In the early days of the pandemic, hospitals and clinics relied heavily on the immediate promises of telehealth as a way to bridge the gap between the patient-doctor interactions, even at a distance. In the short term, this provided rudimentary infrastructure to care for patients, especially those experiencing an acute illness or mild COVID symptoms.
At the same time, there have also been major setbacks that point to the need for a greater solution. Limited insurance concerns, poorly designed workflows, and hesitations about privacy as outlined by HIPAA compliance standards, prevented telehealth from launching in a meaningful way. Before COVID, many of these concerns had a strong basis. But tides have turned swiftly in the midst of a global pandemic. Telehealth solves the problem of addressing acute patient needs, but lacks the means to enable clinical workflows that allow for an all-encompassing approach that would allow a care team to get to know their patients better through regular visits and provide the appropriate level of care.
Virtual care is on the rise.
Over the past year, medical care staff have had to adapt quickly. Although telehealth has fallen short when it comes to comprehensive healthcare, virtual care has made major strides. Virtual care isn’t simply an antidote to the added constraints of COVID, rather, it is an opportunity to reimagine the way we conduct healthcare on a broad scale.
Virtual care should mimic in-person workflows as closely as possible. This type of care can be implemented to address all aspects of wellness, from chronic medical conditions to scheduling post-op appointments. In a virtual care setting, patients first meet with a nurse, as they would in a live setting. The nurse then communicates with physicians and any ancillary staff as needed or can immediately convert to a multi-party call and do warm-handoff with the patient. Throughout the encounter, the care team can coordinate and document notes which can be integrated with the EMR.
Virtual care also means that specialists and interpreters are at the ready to provide immediate assistance. Workflow integration with electronic health records make healthcare providers’ jobs much easier and increase utilization. Furthermore, relying on an integrated virtual platform to do most of the heavy lifting will help reduce tech stack used to provide point solutions and other system management complexities that would otherwise slow hospital staff down.
Post-encounter, patients and care teams alike will benefit from easy follow ups as well as further monitoring of patients remotely if needed.
Now is the right time to switch.
Patients not only prefer a more rapid and accessible form of healthcare, they now demand it. That’s the difference between virtual care today and telehealth models of the past. Even before an appointment is scheduled, a physician can determine whether a virtual or in-person visit suits a patient’s needs best. Patients want to interact with a platform that is simple to use. With Bluestream Health, patients don’t need to download an app or waste time with third-party video conferencing software. All resources, including video functionality, are accessible via secure SMS or email links on their mobile device or pc.
Telehealth has often been challenged with shorter contracts and limited funding. Hospital systems and clinics now have more flexibility in funding to upgrade to a platform that will suit their organizational needs, thanks to the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act and subsequent waiver structure outlined by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.
Increased funding means more opportunities for you to meet all of your patients’ needs. Bluestream Health is dedicated to making quality healthcare accessible and affordable to all. Easy-to-use video conferencing, customizable workflows, and intuitive scheduling systems allow clinicians to do what they do best: care for patients. Whether you’re scheduling a routine appointment or managing ongoing health issues, every patient deserves the peace of mind that they are receiving the very best care. And every health care provider should be guaranteed the best tools to deliver that service.