Think about just what it means to live through a global healthcare crisis. Healthcare has suddenly become a normal dinner time conversation for families all across the globe. – Rachel Woods, Advisory Board
Dinner table conversations are just some of the countless things the COVID-19 pandemic has changed. One year in, we know that—for better or worse—many of the changes sparked by the crisis will have long-lasting impacts. For instance, anxiety, stress, and grief are at an all-time high, and experts predict that this “silent crisis” will continue to grow long after the pandemic—especially for doctors, nurses, and other frontline health workers. There’s also the threat of sicker patients and what delayed care means for healthcare systems long-term, with data suggesting 41% of U.S. adult consumers have delayed medical care due to concerns over COVID-19 (September 2020 Advisory Board study).
Patient mindsets and preferences have changed over the last twelve months, and consumers are expecting healthcare delivery to keep up.
What does all of this mean for healthcare systems? How can we harness the momentum around virtual care fueled by the pandemic to shape the future of healthcare delivery to be better for patients, easier on clinicians, reduce inequities, and drive revenue?
We brought together different perspectives from within the industry to explore these questions and discuss how to shape the future of care delivery in a recent webinar with Modern Healthcare. Bright.md Co-Founder and CEO Dr. Ray Costantini joined Advisory Board’s Rachel Woods and Presbyterian Healthcare Service’s Dr. Denise Gonzales for a conversation moderated by Modern Healthcare’s Adam Rubenfire. Watch the full recording here.
Here are four highlights from the conversation.
1. Virtual care is not just for millennials.
One silver lining of the pandemic? We can finally put to bed the myth that only millennials are using telehealth. Data from the Advisory Board’s consumer survey from June 2020 show that telehealth is being embraced across generations, as other sources have found throughout the last year. Baby Boomers and even the Silent Generation—the two generations that are newest to trying telehealth—are most willing to switch to virtual visits, especially if it means they can get care sooner.
If the wait-time for an in-person visit was just one day:
- Gen Z (ages 18-23): 59% would switch to virtual
- Millennials (ages 24-39): 62% would switch to virtual
- Gen X (ages 40-55): 61% would switch to virtual
- Boomer (ages 56-74): 59% would switch to virtual
- Silent Generation (ages 75-93): 59% would switch to virtual
“A majority of consumers, regardless of age, would switch to a virtual visit if they had to wait even a single day for care. That is extreme demand for access,” explained Rachel Woods, Managing Director at Advisory Board, as she walked through this data. “It is clear that virtual care is not something that just millennials want. It is not something that just Gen Z patients want. A preference for virtual care exists across all wait times, and across all age groups.”
2. Access and convenience are not the same.
Too many health systems have only pushed into virtual care by moving in-person interactions to video, rather than implementing digital tools that improve experiences for patients and providers, while also driving efficiency. The reality is that video appointments don’t get to the roots of the problem, like paperwork associated with care encounters, or the clinician capacity shortage. The panelists each emphasized this point.
- “You can’t just electrify paper, as I call it” explained Dr. Denise Gonzales, Medical Director at Presbyterian Healthcare Services. “You can’t just convert the in-person visit into a video visit and think that it’s going to be 10 times better, because now you have all of the intake and outreach processes that were built to do in-person and how do you take care of those?”
- “Access and convenience are not the same thing, and that’s really important,” added Dr. Costantini. “Video encounters do make care more convenient, and they do remove geography as a barrier to care. But, what I’ve seen as a clinician and in working with health systems, is that the real challenge…is that there isn’t enough clinician capacity to go around. And so patients are having to wait to be able to see their providers. Video doesn’t do anything to address that.”
- “We can’t conflate telehealth with video visits,” said Rachel Woods. “I think when most folks think ‘telehealth’, they think ‘video visit’, but the technology should serve a purpose. And oftentimes, what most clinicians tell me is that the video doesn’t serve a perfect purpose. And if it’s just there to enable a conversation, I can’t think of a single sick person who wants to look at themselves reflected in a video while they are talking about the fact that they feel like garbage.”
3. Make sure you’re not asking the wrong questions when exploring virtual care.
Rachel Woods put it simply: “If you’re asking, ‘how many telehealth visits should we be doing?’ You’re asking the wrong question.” Rachel also said that you shouldn’t ask what your digital health strategy should be, but rather: Which of your strategic goals will telehealth support?
For instance, in certain specialties, high-impact digital tools can go beyond volume of visits to really help control cost drivers. Ray and Denise spoke to key specialties like mental health, cardiology, gastroenterology, and orthopedics, and how the right digital tools can unleash the high value of these clinicians, while patients can get the diagnoses, treatment, and referrals they need to get the right care.
4. Some of the digital tools we’ve been using aren’t working.
It’s time to look beyond digital tools that constrain health systems, or only meet some patient needs, while neglecting to actually drive health or business outcomes.
For health systems looking to the future, and considering how to learn from the past year and make virtual care work better for them long after the pandemic, it’s important to keep this point in mind. Digital tools can and should go beyond just video visits to address overall patient experiences and preferences—which have expanded due to experiences during COVID-19 to include asynchronous care, messaging with doctors, or drive-through testing sites—along with efficiency and administrative burden for clinicians, and more.
Want to learn more about how to create a hybrid care delivery model to meet changing patient expectations, while driving your overall business goals? Check out our latest white paper.