As the COVID vaccine rolls out, we look towards the future of the return of in-person care. Clinics need to understand how to balance these care modalities moving forward, so as not to lose the benefits of telehealth while understanding its limitations. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services reported over an 11,000% increase in virtual visits (i.e., video- or phone-based visits) (Harvard Business Review, 2020). Telehealth has successfully integrated and improved the way providers deliver care to patients by reducing barriers, improving disease management, and reducing costs. As facilities reopen, it is inevitable for virtual care usage to fall as in-person visitation rises. For this reason, we need to create hybrid models for both forms of consulting. This way providers and patients can supplement in-person visitation with the support of telehealth.
Lessening staff burden with telehealth
Shifting telehealth and utilizing valuable staff resources to focus on more strategic tasks while automating workflows with telehealth. It is important to design a cohesive system where telehealth compliments your clinic and enhances the quality of service providers deliver to patients. This is particularly important for small and independent practices that lack the administrative support and in-office capacity to simply double the amount of patient care they’re providing every day (Siwicki, 2021).
For one, we need to help providers identify situations in which telehealth can fill a particular care gap that in-person visitations lack. One great example is checking on patients transitioning home after hospitalization to make sure they understand their post-op instructions and aren’t having any complications that might otherwise result in readmission (Siwicki, 2021).
Is it possible value-based care offers better incentives for striking the right balance between in-person and telehealth care?
Value-based models offer the most promise for achieving a better balance of telehealth and in-person care as we look to the future beyond the height of COVID. These payment systems take into account the total cost of care for a patient, reward providers for keeping patients healthy and reducing wasteful spending and are already designed to prevent overutilization (Siwicki, 2021).
What is the best approach to offering telehealth care alongside in-person care?
Incentive providers to use telehealth as a means to improve their in-person care. Telehealth then becomes a powerful tool in the provider’s toolbox for improving their overall patient outcomes. If used correctly, telehealth can extend providers’ capabilities and can be hugely beneficial for reaching patients unable to come into the office (Siwicki, 2021).
All about balance
Clinics who abandon telehealth and return to purely delivering care in person are being short-sighted, and are going to face intense competition from many new actors in the market whose entire focus is delivering convenient virtual care.
There’s no question that telehealth is here to stay and that as patients become more familiar with the technology, they understand the convenience of being able to receive care in this way.
According to Sean Cavanaugh, who serves as the chief policy officer and chief commercial officer at Aledade.
“From an overall quality of care perspective, this worries me because telehealth can’t be as coordinated with a patient’s entire health journey as a longstanding primary care provider. But I wouldn’t want to see a model where primary care providers are only doing in-person care and these select virtual providers take over all telehealth.
We have a huge opportunity at this moment to create a better system that supports a balanced approach to telehealth, and we need to capitalize on it by designing a new future for telehealth that works for patients and providers (Siwicki, 2021).”
How much virtual care makes sense when we do return to a new normal state?
First, practices will need to develop criteria for scheduling patients for in-person or virtual visits. Clinics need to determine what criteria qualify a patient for in-person visitation and which patients can be solved with telehealth (eg. routine check-ups etc.). As “reopening” efforts are staggered and in some cases on hold as we confront a resurgence of Covid, and physical distancing requires that we minimize patients in waiting rooms and hospital common areas, in-person clinic schedules will likely remain under-filled for months to come (Harvard Business Review, 2020).
Clinics must delegate certain tasks to members of their practice. Using any telehealth software helps medical assistants can virtually room patients and perform many of their routine pre-visit tasks. Administrative staff can instead oversee operations as telehealth handles booking patients’ virtual visits and can be integrated into the post-visit workflow so that follow-up items are completed. To learn more about how to properly balance telehealth or how Porton Health’s applications work, contact us to find a solution that meets your needs.
Balancing Virtual and In-Person Health Care. (2020, November 17). Harvard Business Review. https://hbr.org/2020/11/balancing-virtual-and-in-person-health-care
Siwicki, B. (2021, April 21). How do providers strike the right balance between in-person care and. Healthcare IT News. https://www.healthcareitnews.com/news/how-do-providers-strike-right-balance-between-person-care-and-telehealth