Telehealth had its moment in the spotlight during Covid-19. But more accurately, it's been video visits that have held the attention of the health care industry. When we talk about the rise of telehealth, we often point towards data sets that include just video visits (Advisory Board included). And when we talk about expanding regulations and reimbursement, the focus once again is on video visits.
But as we think about the future of telehealth, we need to be more intentional about considering the potential for all telehealth modalities, especially asynchronous care and remote patient monitoring (RPM).
Health care transformation calls for a comprehensive approach to telehealth
Video visits have benefits, but video visits haven't fundamentally changed health care, they've simply digitized the traditional in-person visit. Patients still wait in a (digital) waiting room for their visit, providers still cover and have access to the same information during the visit, and the patient-provider relationship is still limited to their contact during the finite, time-bound appointment.
So, aside from improved access and convenience, patients and providers aren't getting anything out of a video visit that they wouldn't get out of an in-person visit. On top of that, video visits can't replace every type of in-person encounter, especially those that require some type of hands-on care.
And the need for health care transformation is only getting more urgent. We're dealing with a world where the pandemic exacerbated issues around workforce shortages and provider burnout, at the same time that patients are getting older and have more chronic conditions. This creates a crisis situation: a growing population of sicker patients, and fewer providers to care for them. Video visits are a great tool to expand access for patients, but they do little to extend capacity and help patients manage their conditions.
Telehealth can solve industry-wide challenges
Asynchronous platforms and RPM could create a continuous stream of engagement between patients and providers. The improved continuity of care would make it possible for providers to intervene at the first sign of complications, leading to better clinical outcomes and lower overall costs. Wrap-around telehealth services could also extend capacity of providers and help patients manage their own conditions to relieve some of the pressures on clinical staff.
Here are just a few examples of how telehealth modalities outside of video visits can transform health care delivery.
1. Collect and transmit data that is crucial to the diagnosis and treatment of illnesses
Chronic care management with RPM
The use of RPM for chronic care management enables more frequent connections between providers and patients. In between visits, providers monitor patients' progress using data provided by wearables and mobile apps.
Technology helps patients take an active role in their care by making it easier for them to track their conditions. Both the patients and providers then have all the necessary information available to them during visits (whether in-person or virtual) to help patients stay on top of their conditions.
Automated intake and remote triage with asynchronous platforms
Asynchronous care tools allow patients to submit symptoms and medical information conveniently and quickly through automated surveys and collection forms. AI-powered platforms can go one step further, generating an array of potential diagnoses and suggesting care plans for low-acuity concerns. Providers then have all relevant information at their fingertips when they see higher-acuity patients.
2. Increase workflow efficiencies and extend provider capacity
Discharge patients to home with RPM
RPM gives providers the option to discharge patients to their homes, where follow-up care is conducted virtually. If a patient's condition deteriorates, RPM devices alert clinicians in real-time. Discharge to home prevents infection spread in overcrowded health care facilities and preserves clinician capacity for patients who need to stay hospitalized.
Remote second opinions (RSOs) with asynchronous platforms
Providers can use asynchronous care tools to access specialist consultations for complex cases without the need for in-person encounters. Referring providers can send all relevant information for the specialist to review the case and either confirm the diagnosis or recommend further testing or a new treatment plan. The use of an asynchronous platform frees up referring providers' and specialists' time, thus extending capacity, and improving patient access for patients who need specialist care the most.
Join us today for our 2022 digital health trends summit where we'll talk more about telehealth's potential and other key themes in digital health.