As another Covid-19 variant continues to plague the U.S., many in healthcare are expressing concern—not just for immediate issues caused by the virus, but also for healthcare delivery in the long-term, as severe capacity constraints take over. According to one doctor’s take in The New York Times, it all comes down to a domino effect, as hospital beds fill, staff members quarantine, and the overall time to care increases.
“Fewer providers means fewer beds because there are only so many patients a team can treat at a time,” Dr. Craig Spencer, emergency medicine physician, wrote. “This also means treatment is slower and people will spend more time in the ER. And the longer these patients stay in the ER, the longer others remain in the waiting room. The domino effect will affect all levels of the healthcare system, from short-staffed nursing homes to ambulances taking longer to respond to 911 calls.”
According to the latest data from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS), 19 percent of U.S. hospitals are understaffed, and 21 percent are anticipating critical shortages in the coming weeks. In our conversations with healthcare executives and providers, we continue to hear how the impact of this current surge is not just an urgent crisis for healthcare—but is paving the way for long-term issues and ripple effects on organizational operations, including staffing, burnout, patient outcomes, and revenue.
But the rise of critical technology like asynchronous telehealth is proving its value in today’s healthcare climate.
Here are five ways asynchronous telehealth can help address the healthcare capacity crisis.
1. Keep patients with common conditions out of the ER or urgent care
As mentioned above, patients are flooding emergency departments or urgent care centers where staff is already strained. With asynchronous care, patients with common conditions—like a urinary tract infection, ear infection, or the flu—can stay home, avoid sitting in a waiting room, and receive quality care from a doctor within minutes. In fact, 33 percent of patients who have used Bright.md in the past 12 months said they would have sought care in the ER or an urgent care center if Bright.md wasn’t available to them.
Health systems are using Bright.md’s asynchronous care to actively and successfully reduce the number of patients flooding their ERs and in-person urgent care centers. With this technology, systems can get patients treatment more efficiently, while keeping staff focused on those who need their in-person attention.
One patient, who recently used Bright.md to receive care, shared her own personal experience. “I knew I had bronchitis and needed additional meds. Our doctors [were] full, no video times were available, and the clinic was full. After an 11-hour ER visit with my elderly mother a few nights earlier, I knew the ER was overly busy. I decided to try [Bright.md] before having to go to a walk-in urgent care. This was a perfect fit for me with what symptoms I had.”
2. Remain competitive as consumers look for faster, more convenient avenues of care
According to a new survey by Bright.md, three out of every five consumers would opt to find healthcare either online, via an app, or at a D2C clinic versus their traditional health system in the future. Competition for low-acuity patients is fierce, and with increasing capacity constraints, health systems could continue to lose patients and revenue to these convenient-care options—carrying implications for patient retention and, ultimately, downstream revenue.
Long wait-times are also a major barrier to patient satisfaction and loyalty. Sixty-nine percent of survey respondents who tried to book an appointment with their health system needed to wait one day or longer to see a provider or specialist—just 31 percent said they received same-day care through their health system. However, asynchronous telehealth allows a clinician to review patient information and make a diagnosis, with a patient wait-time of six minutes on average—allowing patients to bypass trips to the ER and long wait-times while enabling systems to remain competitive.
3. Give staff tools that save time, reduce administrative burden, and enable them to deliver quality care
Sixty-five percent of providers say the pandemic has exacerbated feelings of burnout, and as staffing shortages mount, losing even more clinicians can have a costly impact. According to providers, three of their top reasons for burnout include too much paperwork, poor work-life balance, and EHRs. “Clinicians are spending so much time with the EHR that many of them are burnt out,” said Bright.md’s Chief Medical Advisor Dr. Edward Abraham. “So from a technology perspective, they’re looking for help with their day to day activities. They want to spend more time having human contact versus just typing away to enter information in the EHR.”
An asynchronous solution like Bright.md has a critical role to play in clinical decision support. Our platform was designed to help increase the capacity of existing clinical teams, while empowering providers with digital tools that eliminate nearly 90 percent of their administrative work. We do this by automating chart notes in SOAP format, after-visit summaries, treatment plans, prescriptions, and more in our platform, along with clinical intake and pre-visit interviews. Because of this, clinicians can spend less time dealing with administrative overwhelm—and more time with patients who need them most.
“Long wait-times are a major barrier to patient satisfaction and loyalty. Sixty-nine percent of survey respondents who tried to book an appointment with their health system needed to wait one day or longer to see a provider or specialist—just 31 percent said they received same-day care through their health system.”
4. Make it easy for patients to easily determine how and where to go for care
According to Harvard Business Review, 62 percent of people feel as though today’s healthcare system is intentionally confusing. Add in factors like long call center or triage line holds, and patients can easily become frustrated and even opt out of finding care. With an asynchronous platform like Bright.md, though, health systems can feel confident in their digital front door while knowing patients can get the care they need quickly and easily.
With our triage solution Navigate by Bright.md, health systems can attract and retain patients, achieve positive patient outcomes, and reduce costs by guiding patients to the right venue of care. Navigate is an easy-to-use digital solution that asks patients to enter their symptoms and then offers care options based on their needs. Navigate links the patient directly to the appropriate next step configured by the health system, whether that be an on-demand asynchronous appointment, a scheduling tool, or the nearest urgent care clinic. As a result, call centers are less inundated with questions, fewer people with common conditions default to in-person appointments, and your staff can focus on patients with more complex needs.
5. Enable sustainable and efficient care delivery in the short- and long-term
In conversations with customers, we hear about current pain points clinicians are experiencing—including increased administrative work like responding to patient emails and portal messages. In fact, according to Healthcare IT News, a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association noted that the pandemic has forced clinicians to spend even more time in their EHRs than prior to Covid-19.
“Researchers pointed to two major factors appearing to drive the increase: clinical review, where clinicians view test results and patient history, and in-basket messages from seven possible sources,” stated the author.
And it’s not that clinicians don’t want to help patients or answer questions directly; instead, and oftentimes, this work is not reimbursed, meaning clinicians are forced to make time outside of typical clinical hours to manage inboxes. This work tends to be on top of typical EHR paperwork and charting, as well as management of multiple virtual care platforms.
Bright.md was designed to reduce the time providers have to spend in the EHR. In addition to streamlining workflows for clinicians, it integrates with an EHR, as well as other technologies in the digital health ecosystem, making it a key player in a system’s suite of digital tools.We’re also building partnerships with key players throughout the digital health ecosystem—like VitalTech and eVisit, to name a few—to strengthen integrations, define new models of patient engagement, and reduce frictions in care delivery for patients and for providers, like handoffs and escalations. For health systems, these partnerships mean access to shared data to improve quality, outcomes, and continuity of care, while delivering more effective and efficient ways for providers to engage with patients.
Want to explore how asynchronous care can help address your challenges?
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