Guest Post: Three Benefits to Using Virtual Care Services During Seasonal Epidemics

Tuesday, March 27th, 2018
This post was written by Dr. Delanor Doyle

Virtual Care

Virtual care benefits providers and patients.

This year, the flu epidemic reached an all-time high with 39 states experiencing high patient traffic and marking it as the most hectic season for hospitals since 2009. It seems every day in the news we heard about another state or city breaking a record for the most local flu cases of all time. It’s no wonder then that anyone, even medical professionals, were wary about coming into contact with others and being susceptible to the illness.

When a true epidemic breaks out, like this flu season, it is critical that healthcare providers encourage the use of virtual care services. This is important not only from a health perspective for themselves, but also because it benefits the patient in more ways than simply not having to get out of bed to go to the doctor’s office.

#1: Provides a Personalized, Holistic Care Approach

In the past, physicians would travel to the homes of their patients so the sick did not have to travel. With virtual care, physicians can actually return to this level of personalization. Now, physicians can talk with their patients one-on-one to relate to them on a deeper level—as if they were coming into their home—through the use of video conferencing capabilities. People want to relate to people so providing a face-to-face interaction virtually ensures the patient feels cared for and valued.

Additionally, there are many benefits to seeing the patient’s home or work environment that can help provide health advice that goes beyond a traditional visit. By seeing their surroundings, a physician may recognize triggers or red flags in the background that can help further diagnose a problem that wouldn’t otherwise be known from an office visit. This allows physicians to truly be care providers, as opposed to simply treating an illness.

#2: Improves Satisfaction in Level of Care Provided

We’ve all seen the emergency room that is full to the brim with patients waiting to be seen and feeling the level of stress rise in needing to get to every one of them as quickly as possible. During an epidemic like the flu, the ER is going to be packed and physicians will need to move from patient to patient quickly. However, they can actually do so just as fast, if not more so, virtually. Patients no longer have to become frustrated waiting hours in the ER intake room waiting to be seen. Instead, they receive more immediate care with less coordination and hassle at the office.

By using virtual care services, physicians are simplifying the process while also being able to scale faster. A dedicated virtual staff can answer patient questions efficiently while not losing the personal touch so they don’t feel rushed out of the office. Virtual care service removes the lag time between patients walking in and out of the office, allowing more time for care and the visit and the volume of those needing assistance decreases faster.

#3: Lower Out-of-Pocket costs While Increasing Retention Rates

It seems a patient’s immediate first step when they feel they are coming down with the flu or another quickly-spreading illness is to go to the ER or an urgent clinic because they want immediate care and do not want to wait to schedule an appointment with their primary care physician. Unfortunately, some of those types of visits are not covered by a patient’s insurance plan or they must pay an extremely high co-pay for it. As physicians, it is critical we better educate patients about virtual care services that can give them that immediate return that doesn’t cost them extra.

By reminding patients of these services and then providing quality care when they do utilize them, physician groups and healthcare organizations can build loyalty and begin shifting potential negative perceptions a patient might have about their provider. This allows providers to establish a true relationship with patients and be seen as a key resource for all health-related issues, which increases retention for reoccurring visits.

About the Author

Dr. Delanor Doyle

Dr. Delanor Doyle

Dr. Delanor Doyle is the chief medical officer of Texas Health Aetna, the jointly owned health plan focused on improving quality, affordability and overall member experience between Texas Health and Aetna. The company represents two leading healthcare organizations coming together to fundamentally transform the health care experience for members through technology-enabled, data-driven analytics and enhanced local care management. For more information, please visit www.texashealthaetna.com.

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