Telemedicine has been piloted and tested for many purposes for over nearly a century since Willem Einthoven first began remote monitoring patient electrical cardiac signals in 1906. In recent decades health organizations have been evaluating the effectiveness of virtual care compared to traditional forms of care delivery. This approach initially created a binary assumption that care would be either delivered in-person or remotely through means like video conferencing.
Virtual care is the next evolution of telemedicine culminating from the healthcare industry’s desire to include telemedicine as part of a holistic solution of providing care. Today, health organizations view telemedicine as just a means of providing care, virtually. In many cases, care is delivered via a hybrid approach of in-person, remote monitoring, and virtual visits.
Over 55% of all internet traffic is now accessed via mobile devices and will continue to grow. Your healthcare organization needs to be prepared to meet patient demands or risk losing valuable patient populations to more prepared provider groups.
Virtual care is ultimately the most efficient means of providing the increased frequency of touch and in many cases the most efficient means of delivering care, period. This is because virtual care reduces the burden associated with transportation to and from appointments as well as the administrative cost of care.
In a traditional care environment, patients schedule appointments and arrive to fill out paperwork while administrative staff work to update records and patient information. Eventually, medical technicians and nurses collect vitals and continue the administrative process of documentation. Plus – there is the added cost of waiting rooms and exam room management. With virtual care, all of this can be done online and duplication of efforts between patient and staff documentation is removed. The net result is increased efficiency for both providers and patients, along with the following benefits:
Increased Access | Virtual care removes barriers including provider shortages and geographic limitations. Via telemedicine providers can provide care from virtually anywhere.
Improved Outcomes | Because virtual care removes patient burdens ranging from transportation to missed work, it becomes easier to just make appointments, which has a trickle-down effect on total compliance. In addition, virtual check-ins are no longer cost-prohibitive, so it’s easier for care plans to adjust quickly using shortened feedback loops. From post-surgery care to chronic care, it is proven that virtual care creates happier and healthier patients.
Decreased Cost of Care | Decreases in care cost follow improvements in outcomes, especially for the most costly areas in healthcare-associated with chronic care management, hospitalization, and surgeries. Implementing a virtual care strategy for these populations decreases the need for utilization of services, improves compliance, and ultimately reduces the total cost of care.
Virtual care is simply a synonym for telemedicine – which is a subset of telehealth. Telehealth is defined as ‘clinical and non-clinical service ranging from diagnosis and management to education and health and wellness apps’. Telemedicine is more specific to distance-based clinical care.
The use of “virtual care” is a result of healthcare’s continued focus on patient-centered care versus a specific form of treatment for each symptom. As such, the “rebranding” of telemedicine under the term virtual care is simply an effort to incorporate telemedicine as part of the holistic approach to patient care.
The common form of telemedicine, live video conferencing, began being piloted in the early ’90s before the internet was widely adopted and prior to video cameras becoming an integrated part of cellphones. Health organizations that needed to solve challenges related to specialist shortages or geographic limitations had to invest significant costs in virtual private networks and point-to-point video infrastructure that included expensive telemedicine carts. This later developed into SIP (Session Initiated Protocol) based telemedicine and served as the primary mode for virtual care delivery until the last 3-5 years.
Broadband internet, cloud-based computing, and integrated audio/video componentry drastically reshaped virtual care in the last 5 years. This shift in technology moved telemedicine initiatives away from hardware-intensive initiatives and shifted application load to cloud-based software applications that operate from virtually any web-enabled device. Today, the cost of launching a telemedicine initiative is significantly reduced due to these latest advancements in technology that are offered through VisuWell.
The future of virtual care is rapidly approaching a time when every home will have a first-aid kit of the necessary virtual care devices like Bluetooth-enabled:
Patients will simply pick-up their cell phone, or log on to a computer and meet with their doctor from the convenience of their living room. With all medical devices being readily available at their home, doctors will instruct patients through the diagnostic exam and capture all necessary information to more effectively diagnose and treat. The type of house call is not far from becoming the everyday reality that was the agrarian society centuries ago.