The first quarter of 2020 was the most funded quarter for digital health technology in history. Healthcare organizations spent a staggering $9.1 billion in the first half of the year to accelerate innovation as they responded to COVID-19.
The pandemic proved just how vital a connected, virtual healthcare ecosystem is to patients and organizations. And, there are countless examples of healthcare organizations that rapidly deployed virtual care solutions: a small hospital in Toronto built a COVID-19 self-assessment in record time, a senior service company launched a hospital-at-home option for vulnerable seniors, and a community health system deployed a call center triage to handle a record number of inquiries to name a few.
A successful virtual care ecosystem amounts to more than the sum of its parts. Many pieces must work together to inform, personalize, and accelerate the ability to care for another. This may include application portals, online scheduling, remote monitoring, pharmacy delivery, chatbots, and many more digital engagement tools.
To create a virtual care ecosystem, there are three main levers for opportunity:
- Increasing reach and improving access to care
- Keeping people healthy and reducing the disease burden
- Decreasing costs by boosting the efficiency of care
Here’s how to pull these levers to drive better engagement and boost adherence, which ultimately leads to better outcomes.
Lay the foundation
COVID-19 increased consumers’ expectations in their healthcare. A recent study from Accenture found that based on their experience during the pandemic, 60% of patients want to continue to use technology to communicate with providers and manage future conditions. People realize that virtual care is not only convenient — saving time and offering immediate remedies, such as the best course of treatment for a sprained ankle — but a necessity as they choose to stay away from medical facilities due to concerns over the virus.
Driven by an agile, scalable, and secure digital platform, a virtual care ecosystem allows healthcare organizations to easily follow a patient’s health journey and engage with patients remotely in a quick, easy, and nimble fashion. This high-touch engagement strategy will complement and enhance the patient experience while improving health outcomes with expanded access to care, increased touchpoints, and better care plan adherence.
Start with an engagement platform that consolidates patient data, like Health Cloud. This allows you to connect disparate systems, like electronic medical records (EMR) and front-office systems with contact details and communication preferences, with a single platform. An application programming interface (API)-driven approach enables you to see all patient data — clinical, consumer, behavioral — in one place. (See it in action.)
Whether it’s a pre- or post-acute incident, it is imperative to engage patients outside the walls of your healthcare facility. People want to feel like their providers know who they are and care about how they’re doing. But according to Salesforce’s Connected Healthcare Consumer Report, only 40% of consumers say the communications they receive feel relevant to them.
There are a variety of digital engagement tools you can use to begin:
- Digital patient communities promote a self-service mentality, which reduces unnecessary calls to the health system and empowers patients to take a more proactive role in their health. Patients stay up-to-date on their health system and program options, and easily engage for their own healthcare needs.
- Chatbots make it possible for patients to connect with their providers anytime. When they reach out, the chatbot confirms identifying information. The patient can select from a menu of available options with common requests, such as operating hours, contact info, and walk-in clinic locations. If a patient wants to talk through symptoms or concerns over COVID-19, the chatbot can transfer the patient to a medical professional on standby. This interaction can even turn into a digital house call when you integrate video conferencing capabilities into your solution.
- Personalized content and promotions put patients on a tailored journey that makes them feel truly seen and understood. Proactive communications may include visit confirmations, automated follow-ups, and content of interest based on their condition.
Forty percent of patients sustain significant risks due to misunderstanding, forgetting, or even ignoring healthcare advice. When healthcare organizations provide ongoing outreach, patients form a better understanding of how and when to take medications, what kinds of activities might be helpful or harmful, and how they can adapt their diet to better support their health.
To boost adherence, consider the following:
- Instructional content on the therapeutic program, easily available through your patient community or app
- Automated medication and testing reminders, sent via an app, email, or push notification on their mobile device
- Goal tracking, daily adherence logs, and task lists on their patient community
Patient engagement and ongoing education are perhaps the most vital part of virtual healthcare. Patients that are more invested in their own health tend to have better outcomes.
Having a virtual care ecosystem in place that regularly engages patients can mitigate risks and deliver better overall outcomes. Learn more about how you can build your virtual care ecosystem by watching our webinar How Providers Can Accelerate Virtual Health With the Right Technology.