By Nikhil Kulkarni, Principal, Zinnov; Ovya RK, Project Lead, Zinnov
The healthcare industry has witnessed a rapid transformation after the onset of the pandemic. Along with the stress that it has produced for the healthcare ecosystem, the pandemic has also become a catalyst for change, accelerating digital transformation efforts across the board. While virtual care was on a slow and steady growth path over the last few years, its role was elevated from being a substitute delivery model to a primary healthcare delivery mechanism in certain cases. In our recent Healthcare Round Table, we brought together industry leaders spearheading Telehealth and Virtual Care services across leading hospitals to discuss the impact of virtual care, and how virtual care itself is undergoing a significant transformation as it prepares for a new normal.
Rise of Virtual Care
Healthcare Providers witnessed a 15 – 20x increase in the volume of virtual care visits since the outbreak of the pandemic. Hospitals have seen spikes in telehealth services over the last few months depending on the spread of Covid-19 in their operating geographies. While the number of virtual care visits might have fluctuated across geographies, a new set of patients have been introduced to the concept of virtual care, and healthcare providers are optimistic about the sustenance of this model, even in a post-COVID world.
Virtual care is demonstrating its utility across the care process right from diagnosis, to monitoring, to post-acute care. Providers are emphasizing on ensuring the same clinical quality through virtual care as in-person doctor visits to sustain the trust of patients. As the industry moves towards digital 2.0, the focus will be on automating certain aspects of virtual care. For example, patients will be automatically prompted to schedule check-ups/appointments, based on their Electronic medical records (EMR).
Changing Business Models
Prior to COVID, virtual care was viewed as a complimentary service. With telehealth/virtual care contributing insignificantly to the overall revenue, it was deemed as the ‘loss leader’ to attract new patients and physicians to the service. However, after the onset of the pandemic, virtual care has emerged as the primary mode of care delivery across hospitals. By addressing the increasing demands for care beyond hospitals, and compensating for the revenue loss faced by patients not visiting the hospitals, virtual care has now assumed the role of a ‘revenue substitute’. Going forward, the focus will be on virtual care emerging as a ‘revenue generator’ by being a standalone revenue stream, instead of just being a substitute for in-person visits.
Payers Rising to the occasion
Since the pandemic began, Payers have been prompt to support the virtual care services availed by their customers. They have started modifying their services to expand the range of patient treatments covered under virtual care. The large payers have also expanded their own telehealth channels, which include a broad range of virtual care platforms for patient-provider interactions. These technological and financial incentives have certainly catalyzed the accelerated adoption of virtual care among patients.
Technology – The Key Differentiator
Technology is at the core of enabling convenience and accessibility of virtual care. So, the technology providers need to align their solutions to the different components of the virtual care ecosystem. The following aspects need to be considered by healthcare stakeholders while aligning their technology solutions for virtual care:
- Ensuring ease of use and convenience for patients; providers need to make sure that patients get comfortable, and are willing to repeat their virtual care experience
- Offering a customized solution addressing a specific need, instead of trying to offer a one-size-fits-all, end-to-end solution
- Integrating with the existing infrastructure and healthcare systems to avoid greenfield implementation
- Leveraging integration with new-age technologies such as voice, AI/ML, etc., for enhanced patient experience
Virtual Healthcare – The Way Forward
The healthcare industry has been the center of attention in 2020, and has undergone a massive transformation in terms of its operating and business models. The pandemic has provided a boost to virtual care adoption and helped to break through the perceived barriers of telehealth. As regulations relax and technologies advance, virtual care is poised to unlock numerous benefits for the healthcare ecosystem.
Healthcare providers should now ensure that virtual care is being adopted in a sustainable manner and translates beyond the current healthcare crisis. It should not be perceived as a band-aid during the pandemic, rather a key mode of healthcare delivery.
Check out the insightful panel discussion on ‘Virtual Care – Opportunities and Challenges for the Healthcare Ecosystem’, which this blog is based on.
Is your healthcare organization grappling with outlining a robust strategy to ensure seamless and sustainable virtual healthcare? Drop us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org, and speak to our experts for details.
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