‘Hybrid care is right here to remain’ after the pandemic compelled the adoption of telemedicine

During the pandemic, many healthcare providers switched to telemedicine to see patients both out of necessity and convenience. But will virtual healthcare remain popular after the pandemic has subsided?

This question was asked on the Is Virtual Care Here to Stay panel moderated by Michelle SingerSVP for political engagement Komcaston the 2022 HealthKey Summit. hosted the launch event Dune Viewing Strategiesthe strategic consulting firm founded by former IBX chairman Daniel Hilterty following his departure from the healthcare giant in 2020.

The conversation comes as companies aiming to alleviate the pain points of healthcare systems (raising millions in venture capital) and healthcare technology founders ponder where they fit in the innovation landscape.

Experts | Mike LaignCEO of Montgomery County, Pa Redeemer health; Meera Mani MDPartners at New York Town Hall Ventures; and Joseph PylePresident of Center City, Philadelphia Thomas Scattergood Behavioral Health Foundation sat on the podium to discuss the pros and cons of virtual care and share their own observations.

The acceptance of virtual and technology-enhanced care is increasing

Some clinicians had been hesitant about telemedicine, but have embraced it in recent years, panellists agreed.

Mani said less than 1% of the services provided by Medicare were provided virtually before the pandemic, but now it’s about a third of the services. A combination of virtual and personal support is often an option today, depending on the needs of the appointment.

Laign, whose company provides home health care, said his team has seen how technology can reduce hospitalizations and readmissions. Technology has also allowed a patient’s entire team to be more available to them, making it easier for the healthcare team to discuss the patient’s health together and with family.

There used to be a stigma that virtual care was “substandard care,” Pyle said, but the pandemic has shown that virtual care works. Pyle’s work focuses on behavioral health, so he noted that the pandemic has also done a lot to remove the stigma surrounding mental health.

How can the acceptance of the technology be promoted among staff and doctors? “The key is to make sure you include them in the technology choices,” Laign said, “and in the development of the models. And I think when you do that and they learn it, they become the best advocates for it.”

(Left to right) HealthKey Summit panelists Michelle Singer, Meera Mani, Mike Laign and Joseph Pyle. (Photo by Sarah Huffman)

Ongoing challenges and new opportunities

Even though it is becoming increasingly popular, questions remain, such as B. Finding the right balance between virtual grooming and in-person grooming. Appointment no-show rates have fallen with the introduction of telemedicine appointments, Pyle said. But it also put a strain on clinicians, who sat for hours in Zoom meetings with clients.

“So the question is, we’ve improved access, but are we improving outcomes?” he said. “Perhaps technology will allow behavioral health to become more integrated into primary care. How then can we use the time when we are not in a session to reach out, monitor and keep people on track [better] Mental health?”

Technology in healthcare offers opportunities to help doctors and improve outcomes, Pyle said. By offering this support to physicians, it could address the shortage of healthcare workers.

Hybrid means access

Mani said that when choosing virtual care over in-person care, the quality of care, the definition of quality and equity in healthcare should be considered.

“While it’s true that virtual grooming has really expanded access to some disadvantaged communities, particularly in urban settings, this has not been the case for communities of color in rural settings,” she said. (Even in urban Philadelphia, social determinants have led to disparities in health care for communities of color.)

But the happy medium to this decision is hybrid care, where clinicians create a plan that combines in-person and virtual care. For example, people living in rural areas could go in person to a primary care home, meet with a GP, and then virtually see any specialists they need. This makes the process easier and more accessible for the patient, but also streamlines things for the clinician, Mani says.

“Hybrid care is here to stay because care consumers and care providers love or like it,” she said.

Sarah Huffman is a 2022-2023 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of the Groundtruth Project that connects young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Lenfest Institute for Journalism. -30-

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