Expanding the patient-centric care delivery model

Ken Abrams, MD, MBA, Managing Director, National Chief Physician Executive, Deloitte Consulting LLPSummer Knight, MD, MBA, Virtual Health Platform Portfolio Leader, Deloitte Consulting LLPBill Fera, MD, Virtual Health Enterprise Leader, Deloitte Consulting LLPFelix Matthews, MD, MBA, Virtual Health Strategy Leader, Deloitte Consulting LP

Virtual health uses telecommunication and networked technologies to connect clinicians with patients (and with other clinicians) to remotely deliver health care services and support well-being. For providers, committing to virtual health at a personal and organizational level affords ever-increasing opportunities to deliver the right care at the right time in the right place, in a connected and coordinated manner.

By strengthening and facilitating a therapeutic alliance between clinicians and patients, virtual health is an important step on our continuous journey to humanize health care. It works within and around a patient’s life, as opposed to their sickness, to deliver care when, where, and how they need and want it. Also, virtual health works its way into consumers’ daily routines by being embedded in electronic devices associated with living life (e.g., smartphones and personal computers) more so than caring for sickness. The health care industry is primed for expanded adoption of virtual health; a 2016 report estimated that the US virtual health market will reach $3.5 billion in revenues by 2022. Several factors are elevating stakeholder interest, including expected physician shortages, continued growth in digital technologies, changing reimbursement models, increasing consumer demand, and the evolving regulatory landscape. One game-changer: Today, nine in 10 American adults use the internet, giving clinicians the capability and flexibility to communicate with and serve health care consumers via the web.

This article explains how virtual health is humanizing health care, enabling powerful new ways to connect, offers strategies and steps that health care providers should consider when implementing virtual health programs, and provides examples of virtual patient-centric care in action. Virtual health enables continuous, connected care

Virtual health has the capacity to inform, personalize, accelerate, and augment people’s ability to care for one another. Virtual health programs can take many forms. Common applications include:

  • Synchronous care to improve patients’ ease of access to providers 
  • Physician-to-physician communication to improve patient care through information sharing 
  • Chronic disease management to improve monitoring and alerts for chronic disease patients
  • Virtual social work to improve communication and care for underserved populations
  • Tele-healthcare to improve patient evaluation and management (e.g., eICU, telepsychology, telestroke) 
  • Remote patient monitoring to improve providers’ understanding of patients’ health and medical status 
  • Solicitation and communication of patient-reported outcomes • Care management processes to increase patients’ understanding of and engagement with their treatment plans 
  • Patient activation to improve adoption of a care plan, health tracking, and patient accountability 
  • Care coordination to improve payer/provider relationships

Virtual health is intended to help stakeholders continue work they have already started to improve care delivery and address evolving consumer priorities. Virtual health goes beyond simply enabling video visits or teleconferencing appointments; it can act as a complement to, or even a substitute for, in-person care delivery based on patient population needs, health organization capabilities, and resource availability. Its primary goals are to expand patient and physician access to critical health services; improve clinical outcomes; increase consumer engagement; enhance care coordination; reduce costs, and improve efficiency across the continuum of care.

Through its ability to share data and content and create personalized interactions remotely, virtual health offers convenient, high-quality access to enhance patient-centric care. In addition, virtual health–facilitated robotics and automation can help relieve clinicians of mundane, administrative, or routine tasks, affording them more opportunities to practice at the top of their license.

Download the full report to explore how virtual health is continuing efforts to humanize health care by extending and expanding the concept of a patient-centric care delivery model into one that is truly life-centric.  

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