Virtual care had begun to make inroads in various health care settings even prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. But with the novel coronavirus prompting a massive shift away from in-person contact of all kinds, virtual care began to surge.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) took one measure of the uptick in the first quarter of 2020, citing a 154% increase in telehealth visits during the last week of March 2020 versus the same period in 2019.
“Telehealth could have multiple benefits during the pandemic by expanding access to care, reducing disease exposure for staff and patients, preserving scarce supplies of personal protective equipment, and reducing patient demand on facilities,” the CDC wrote in an weekly report on the findings.
With virtual visits encompassing far more than just telehealth, these tech-enabled solutions are quickly becoming a new normal that can serve to benefit patients, care providers and health care organizations.
“It’s going to continue to grow and become much more prominent than it is today,” says Cheryl Reid-Haughian, vice president, clinical informatics for CellTrak. “It’s a win-win-win when we embed and use technology to enable care delivery.”
Defining virtual care
While virtual care can protect both care recipients and care providers from an infection control standpoint, it also serves to benefit care delivery by creating more efficient and accessible care.
“Virtual care has different degrees of variation that include using plain old telephone to Zoom or more elaborate Bluetooth-enabled tools used in remote patient monitoring,” Reid-Haughian says.
For organizations utilizing the CellTrak technology, many functions can take place today either face-to-face or virtually. Caregivers can document their care activities and supervisors who need to document patient assessments can do this in person or virtually, too — via phone or video. By diversifying the service delivery model to include in-person and virtual elements, increased value can be experienced by patients, staff and to the care system.
The value of virtual care
Virtual care benefits can largely be grouped into three categories: operational, financial and clinical.
Operationally, the introduction of virtual care can increase efficiencies of the organization. While caregivers are responsible for delivering the care, supervisory staff typically maintain clinical oversight. By leveraging the virtual format for supervisory oversight when possible, these supervisors save travel time and resources, which can be a significant benefit to the organization. Using virtual care technology can also keep front line staff safe and ensure that service can continue even during times such as the pandemic. Continued care and monitoring of patients when it may not otherwise be possible, supports an organization’s goal to keep people at home safely for the longest time possible.
Financially, virtual care supports a return to pre-COVID patient volumes and assists in the management of scarce personal protective equipment (PPE) resources while also allowing for creative scheduling in times of health human resource shortages.
Clinically, care providers can integrate virtual technology to create additional touch points such as check-ins, medication reminders and follow-up monitoring, which can be critical to patient outcomes particularly in a time of emergency. And while not all payers will reimburse for virtual care currently, the clinical benefits can translate into gains in a value-based care environment.
The future of virtual care
With various solutions available for virtual care and advocacy for expanding funding for this type of care, the future for virtual care is limitless in how it could revolutionize home and community care.
Until then, organizations will be well served to adopt technology that enables a wide of variety of virtual care modalities that that improve patient outcomes and provide safety, efficiency and peace of mind for care providers.
“The real opportunity is to seek more diversification using technology,” Reid-Haughian says. “The discussion today about virtual care opens the door to discussions about how these diversified models can be used to achieve the best care, best outcomes at the best costs.”
CellTrak offers a turnkey care delivery management solution that enables efficient care delivery in the growing virtual environment. To learn more, visit https://www.celltrak.com/.