Insights Blog

By Derek Castaneda
on Dec 12, 2018
  • Healthcare | Blog
The Benefits and Barriers of Adopting Virtual Care

One of the more important metrics that healthcare organizations use to measure success is patient satisfaction. The happier patients are with the care they're receiving from an organization, the more likely they are to retain health services through their provider. An emerging form of care that is popular with patients and contributing towards improved patient satisfaction scores is virtual care.

Virtual care is a method that enables providers to communicate, treat, and diagnose patients without physically seeing them. The practice of virtual care isn't new, as it has existed for a while commonly referred to as telehealth. However, with the ability for patients to now have high-definition video calls with their providers using their phone, virtual care is taking off.

However, only 23% of consumers have experienced virtual care. What's holding virtual care back from widespread adoption?

Let's take a look at the benefits of adopting virtual care, as well as the barriers that are slowing the implementation of virtual care.

The Benefits of Adopting Virtual Care

Virtual Care Improves the Patient Experience

The all-important patient satisfaction metric depends heavily on how smooth the patient experience is, and patients are enjoying the experience of receiving virtual care. With 77% of patients reporting a high level of satisfaction, it's clear that the quick access to providers and time saved is popular with patients. With a modern application of virtual care, a patient who is home sick with a sore throat can avoid bundling up and heading into the clinic by instead using their phone to chat with their provider and receive treatment.

Virtual care also represents a logical next step for consumers who are already using their phone to manage their health. Many consumers are managing prescriptions and healthcare billing on their phones, as well as monitoring their health through wearable devices. Virtual care offers consumers the ability to take a more active approach to their health.

Virtual Care is Cost Effective

Ever since the implementation of ACA, the cost of healthcare has become a lightning rod for public and political discourse. Factor in a general shortage of healthcare staff and an increase in volume due to an aging population, and there's no wonder why lowering costs is a such a high priority for healthcare organizations. Implementing virtual care could provide organizations and consumers with significant cost savings. How significant? A recent Accenture study found that virtual care could create clinician capacities that are worth billions of dollars.

Due to its lack of widespread implementation, there is still some work to be done on forecasting precisely how cost-effective virtual care can be, as well as how reimbursements will shape out. But by lowering patient visits, allowing providers to see more patients per day, eliminating the use of expensive medical technologies, freeing up an organization's resources, and encouraging patient's to be more active in their health management, the savings projects to be promising.

Barriers to Adopting Virtual Care

While patients are in interested virtual care, a recent survey of physicians conducted by Deloitte reveals that physicians are hesitant to adopt. Only 18% of the physicians said they plan to add virtual care capability in the next two years. What's causing the lack of enthusiasm?

The primary concerns that physicians cited in the survey were the potential for medical errors, a lack of access to technology, and data security. However, some of the concerns might be a simple aversion to change. Inthe survey, physicians who have already implemented virtual care

Initial Costs

Implementing virtual care does come with some intimal costs. The primary costs for adopting virtual care include:

  • Developing or purchasing a platform/software to host virtual care
  • Workstation equipment like cameras, monitors, and devices
  • Training physicians on providing virtual care
  • Advertising virtual care to patients
  • Managing the workflow and data

All of the costs do add up in a hurry. While the return on the initial investment is auspicious for providers, the initial cost is to be slowing the adoption rate.

Should Organizations Adopt

The Deloitte physician study mentioned earlier concluded that not only should providers adopt virtual care, they must. In their words, the study said:

Our view is that with a changing landscape that favors value-based payment models, growing consumer demand, and advances in digital technologies, virtual care is no longer just a nice-to-have but a must-have for physicians. And the time for health systems to consider developing virtual care strategies is now.

It's hard to not agree. Patient behaviors and technology advancements are both pointing towards a continued rise in virtual care. Patient experience and patient satisfaction are high priorities in today's healthcare landscape, and virtual care provides an improvement to each.

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