In a crisis, finding the “right” solution is much less important than finding the “right now” solution. During the COVID-19 pandemic, clinical practices scrambled to quickly transition care out of the office, with some practices fully turning over to virtual strategies in the course of a single weekend — and they used whatever means available to do so.
Relaxed HIPAA restrictions and expanded CPT codes made it easier for practices to leverage the tools at hand to help with remote delivery of care — whether it was using the EMR to patch together messaging or collect vitals or Facetime and Zoom to get video visits off the ground — the boomerang went out to the market to capture a solution simply to plug the hole in the dike.
But now that the crisis has abated, leaders are turning their attention away from quick fixes to think about the long-term sustainability of pandemic solutions.
Physician buy-in is no longer the challenge that it was — the urgency for virtual solutions in the face of the pandemic leapt that barrier, and the success of remote care for managing patients through the crisis proved its value. COVID-19 has accelerated a massive behavioral change around digital health — providers are more willing to prescribe it, and patients even more receptive to using it.
In order not to lose these massive gains in digital adoption and changing mindsets, though, leaders need to think more holistically about digital health and virtual care. They need to consider and address questions of scale and ease of use. Makeshift solutions like drive-through blood pressure measurements worked in a pinch, but how do they function when the weather changes? When people can’t take off work?
Leaders know that efficiency and optimization is crucial to clawing back margin and to transition away from massive losses. So, in response to these changes, a few thoughts:
1. Holistic Strategy
Virtual visits have been the hot topic of the past several months, but creating a sustainable virtual care model requires a more comprehensive strategy that involves multiple digital touchpoints. Measuring healthcare interactions can and should extend outside the visit — digital engagement, specifically around the condition that the patient is managing, is the only way to truly impact health outcomes.
2. Integration First
As leaders think about responding holistically, they need to consider integration. If a virtual solution is going to be sustainable, scalable, and create efficiencies, it must deeply integrate and be interoperable with the medical record. Overwhelmed clinicians are not going to use a solution if it does not streamline their workflow.
3. Turnkey Is Key
Any virtual solution has to be turnkey. It should fully document the virtual visit; capture remote data from patients and also guarantee compliance; pick, pack and ship devices; and fully close the loop with interventions. If you have to hire another person to do virtual care, you are doing it incorrectly.
4. Don’t Forget ROI
ROI needs to be front and center in the conversation around virtual care solutions. This is especially true in areas like obstetrics, where most reimbursement happens through lump sum, global fees. Having a video visit doesn’t necessarily move the bottom line if that video visit isn’t being reimbursed. Leaders need to make sure that a virtual strategy takes into account other venues, like asynchronous virtual care, which can help deal with varying reimbursement strategies and realities.
The pandemic has created immense opportunities for virtual care, and leaders with a smart virtual strategy and holistic approach are in a position to take full advantage of the moment.
Juan-Pablo Segura is the president and co-founder of Babyscripts, a company that’s been providing prenatal care through the internet since 2013. The company has partnerships with influential participants in the obstetrics market, including Philips International and General Electric, and relationships with more than 40 health systems around the country.