Healthcare will undoubtedly be a key consideration in every aspect of life in 2021. Telehealth adoption and acceptance surged during the pandemic, and US based medical transcription companies helped providers tackle their EHR data entry tasks. As the COVID-19 crisis developed, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) reported over an 11,000% increase in video- or phone-based visits. In May, healthcare facilities opened their doors for regular business and the following weeks saw a drop in virtual visits. While telemedicine provider Amwell reports that tech-based healthcare is here to stay, the future of healthcare is expected to be a hybrid approach as some procedures like immunizations, blood work, and imaging will always need an in-person visit.
The findings of the Amwell survey as summarized by www.benefitspro.com show why a hybrid model may be shaping the future of healthcare:
- Up to 70% of the 600 providers surveyed reported they expect to continue using telehealth “sometimes or frequently” in three years.
- Telehealth use is not just restricted to urgent care, with more providers and consumers using it for primary, chronic and specialty care.
- 21% of providers use three or more telehealth platforms and usability is a key criterion for both patients and doctors.
- Many consumers are not familiar with accessing virtual care, and less than two-thirds of people in rural or tribal areas have the high-speed internet needed to support remote care.
- About a quarter of the 2,000 consumers surveyed had used some type of virtual care and 91% were satisfied with the experience. Up to 75% said they expect to use it even after COVID-19 eases off.
- For physicians, the challenges to further adoption of telehealth include determining when telehealth is an appropriate option to in-person care, or getting reimbursed for services.
- There was wide acceptance among both physicians and patients in telehealth uasge for prescription renewals.
- Only 48% of physicians and 29% of patients were willing to use telehealth for their first meeting.
- Across all age groups, a third or fewer said they would be willing to use a video visit for regular mental health check-ups.
The use of video consultations long term conditions has increased and includes management of diabetes, hypertension, asthma, stroke, psychiatric illnesses, cancers, and chronic pain. Video visits are also a good option for emergency eye care triage and management of a variety of acute conditions. Healthcare organizations will need to have proper strategies in place to balance virtual care and face-to-face care. Harvard Business Review recommends the following best practices to succeed with the hybrid care model in the era of Covid-19:
- Develop criteria for triaging and scheduling patients for in-person or virtual visits: These criteria can be based on diagnosis, symptoms, or visit types (post-op, routine physical, etc.). Different specialties would have different criteria based on patients’ clinical needs.
- Offer a blend of face-to-face visits and virtual care: Providers can offer a mix of in-person care and virtual care from the same clinical session and space. There should be strategies in place to move patients into and out of visits smoothly.
- Establish technical functionality for virtual care: Providers need to have dedicated equipment, space, and focus to efficiently deliver telehealth in a block of time from any private, quiet space. This includes webcams on desktop or laptop computers for larger video screen size alongside the electronic health record (EHR) integrated video. Phones and tablets can be used as backup or as a backup when necessary.
- Tele-interpreter service integration for phone and video visits: This is important to promote health equity. Interpretation is essential to provide quality health care for patients with limited English proficiency from all cultural and linguistic backgrounds.
- Diversified technology toolbox: This implies using simple tools like text messages linking to live videos to allow as many patients as possible to benefit from virtual care. This can also help overcome any constraints on patients’ access to technology.
- Fully involve care team: Medical assistants, schedulers and trainees, including students, residents and fellows, should be fully involved in implementing the hybrid care model. quality and safety data should be tracked to identify potential gaps or problem areas.
Healthcare facilities should be prepared to expand virtual care they are offering if the need arises. Monitoring virtual visit lag times between scheduling and visit date and visit length and other metrics is also important. Telehealth payment parity is also crucial to drive adoption and efficiency.
As healthcare providers focus on providing quality care by blending face-to-face visits and virtual consultations and building trust and nurturing patient relationships, outsourcing medical transcription can ensure accurate and timely EHR charting.