Senior woman using health technology at home during teleconsultation

How to improve patient virtual care and maximize staffing

Summary

Virtual care may help increase likelihood of patient success, streamline patient experience, and maximize staffing.

Read time: 3 minutes

Have you successfully gotten a patient off the surgical table and home, only to have them readmitted?

Nearly 30% of Medicare and Medicaid patients are readmitted within 30 days of discharge, impacting the quality of life of the patient, their loved ones, and other healthcare workers — and driving up costs in an already burdened healthcare system.¹

Many healthcare organizations are implementing remote patient monitoring, telehealth, and other virtual care solutions to increase the likelihood of better care outcomes when a patient heads home, streamline the patient and clinician experience, and reduce care resource needs.

How virtual care works

Virtual care solutions have been around for more than a decade. The recent pandemic-driven resource exodus made virtual care adoption a survival necessity. In most cases, when a patient is ready for discharge, they’re trained to use a remote patient monitoring solution and outfitted with things like a blood pressure cuff, a glucose monitor and a digital scale, and a way to transmit data to a healthcare organization and its caregivers.

Clinicians need timely awareness of often subtle changes in weight or adherence to intervene before clinical deterioration, and yet those indicators are typically out of view.² Virtual care solutions such as remote patient monitoring and remote triage can give healthcare providers timely and secured access to changes in patient vitals without needing to be in the same room. Virtual care solutions help clinicians to tailor monitoring of key parameters specific to a patient, such as weight change, glucose level shift, etc., while receiving system alerts for out of norm readings for a more personalized care plan.

Timely access to up-to-date patient health information enables proactive care intervention, supporting better care outcomes and improving patient satisfaction. Having a complete picture of a patient’s health better informs clinicians of the patient’s medical history, past treatments, and preferences.³

Most virtual care solutions offer the ability for patient-to-provider engagement via video or audio, creating a more timely, personal connection and enhancing follow-up potential.

Freeing clinicians from administrative workload is critical as HDOs grapple with attracting and retaining qualified staff.

How virtual care capabilities help maximize staff efficiencies and enable personalized patient care

Post-pandemic staffing shortage is causing a ripple effect throughout the healthcare industry. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported “that more than 275,000 additional nurses are needed from 2020 to 2030. Employment opportunities for nurses are projected to grow at a faster rate (9%) than all other occupations from 2016 through 2026.”⁴

Clinician shortages have made HDOs more open to adopt hybrid work which continues to evolve.

A significant portion of healthcare staff are transitioning to working a combination of at home and on-site, which will further drive the demand for robust virtual care capabilities.

One way for HDOs to maximize clinician efficiency is by implementing virtual care across the care continuum, to reduce the number of times patients need to travel to a physical healthcare location for follow-up, and allows for proactive, anywhere, anytime monitoring of patients for timely care intervention. Freeing clinicians time to focus on the core mission of providing care while reducing administrative workload with robust virtual care capabilities and successful adoption can help HDOs attract and retain quality staff.

Instead of spending valuable clinician time collecting vitals, organizations can rely on virtual care solutions to alert them to out-of-norm readings or potential care intervention events that may affect care outcomes. Clinicians on-site spend their time on things that need to be done in person like administering medication or physical assessments while remote patient monitoring solutions gather data that doesn’t need staff facilitation.

Virtual care solutions make existing clinicians more efficient by enabling them to serve a larger patient population, which maximizes the time they can spend connecting with patients who could benefit most from in-person care. It provides a cost-effective alternate to hiring expensive traveling nurses to augment staff.

4 ways virtual care can improve patient-provider communication

To make virtual care more effective, strategies should be implemented to simplify follow-up with patients when critical changes occur. Virtual care removes the barriers to connect the patient and care providers in timely manner in four ways:

  1. Apps — Empower providers and patients to access data anytime, anywhere, on any device in a secured and privacy compliant manner.

  2. Timely ongoing engagement — Remind patients and providers about readings, upcoming appointments, medication and physical activity compliances and capabilities to communicate by preferred method - email, text, chat, phone call and video.

  3. Alerts — Send multiple alerts and reminders to patients, care givers and providers.

  4. Encouraging patient adoption — Provide patients with helpful information via text, email, video, voice memo, phone, etc. to assist them in compliance with treatments.

Giving providers multiple ways to connect with patients and caregivers through reminders and alerts in their preferred medium could ensure the efficacy of virtual care solutions and pave the way for better outcomes.

Recognize and plan to address the barriers to virtual care from the outset

Providing proper training for clinicians, along with policies and procedures to require participation, is critical to a successful virtual care implementation. Gartner suggests eight other steps to recognize and plan to address the barriers to virtual care from the outset: ⁵

  1. Conducting a formal evaluation of virtual care services implemented in response to COVID-19. Identify critical success factors and ongoing challenges, ensuring you build these lessons learned into your strategic roadmap moving forward.

  2. Establishing virtual care governance that includes clinical and business leadership. Work through the list of barriers and identify the strength and location of resistors in the business and wider macro health economy.

  3. Ensuring engagement with senior leadership and influential stakeholders by undertaking a broad evaluation of stakeholders’ views and interests to determine attitudes, beliefs, fears, and hopes in regards to virtual care.

  4. Adopting a formal change management approach that focuses on winning hearts and minds, and presents a strong evidence foundation. Undertake risk assessments under a transparent governance framework.

  5. Using scenario planning to account for funding and legislative uncertainties to identify potential barriers and to take timely risk-aligned actions across different scenarios.

  6. Negotiating gain-share terms or new tariffs for virtual care initiatives to overcome payment systems barriers. Involve payers when formulating strategic plans. Equip contracting leaders with the data they need to negotiate favorable virtual care payment rates.

  7. Evaluating revenue models with the virtual care vendor community. The market is evolving rapidly, creating competition between vendors and providing opportunities for buyers to dictate favorable terms.

  8. Revisiting enterprise architecture to determine which vendors are not able to provide cost-effective APIs for virtual care and electronic health record (EHR) integration. Set clear expectations of your vendor community to avoid brittle or closed integration using proprietary standards. Revisit contract terms that are not favorable for virtual care integration.

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Integrations extend the benefits of virtual care solutions

From pharmacies to payment processors, integrations available in remote monitoring solution apps for patients and providers extend their benefits and increase ease of use.

Providers can receive faxed authorizations from doctors and hospitals, research illnesses, accept payments, and more.

Patients can perform self-service like checking symptoms, ordering prescription refills, paying invoices, and accessing their medications list, reactions, and possible side effects from one app.

With a digital-first strategy that prioritizes patient access anywhere, anytime, hospitals can battle the increasing rise of consumerization in healthcare driven by Amazon, Wal-Mart, CVS, and Walgreens. Giving patients a digital front door that makes it easy for them to access medical information and education promotes patient compliance, satisfaction with care, healthy lifestyles, and self-care skills.⁶

Armed with that strong understanding of their disease or illness, patients are more likely to experience a positive outcome.⁷The benefit of reducing readmittance from 30% to 10% also significantly impacts a healthcare organization’s bottom line.

To learn more about improving patient and provider experience with virtual care, visit the Ricoh Healthcare page.

  1. 1https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/jocs.12441
  2. 2https://www.ajmc.com/view/remote-monitoring-not-successful-at-reducing-death-readmission-from-hf
  3. 3Quick Answer: Top 5 Technology Investments for Healthcare Providers in 2022. Published 10 February 2022 - ID G00761938. Pooja Singh
  4. 4Haddad LM, Annamaraju P, Toney-Butler TJ. Nursing Shortage. [Updated 2022 Feb 22]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK493175/
  5. 5“Ace These Proof Points to Create a Sustainable Virtual Care Strategy,” Gartner, Refreshed 16 February 2022, Published 23 September 2020.
  6. 6Oyetunde M. O., Akinmeye A. J. (2015). Factors influencing practice of patient education among nurses at the University College Hospital, Ibadan. Open Journal of Nursing, 5(5), Article ID 56519 10.4236/ojn.2015.55053
  7. 7https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20442387/

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