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Virtual Care Technology for Healthcare – Current Challenges & Solutions

Virtual care technologies appear to be a win-win solution for healthcare organizations and for their patients and providers. Virtual care has the potential to:

  • Lessen the impact of the staffing shortages that are projected to continue to plague healthcare for the foreseeable future.
  • Improve connectivity between patients and providers.
  • Reduce hospital use – particularly expensive ER visits.
  • Support aging in place by bringing healthcare to patients for whom mobility is an issue.
  • Improve access to care in rural and under-served areas.

With so many advantages for patients and providers, what are the challenges that healthcare organizations will face if they choose to embrace and develop this technology?

EMR IntegrationstEMR adoption has been a painful topic for healthcare organizations, and the integration of virtual care technologies with EMR technologies adds a layer of complexity to an already-complex issue.

In a 2019 survey sponsored by Zipnosis, 42% of respondents who reported providing virtual care services said that their services did not integrate with their EMR system at all. More than half (54%) reported that EMR integration would be a major challenge.

Given the growing prevalence of virtual health services, it is growing more important to collaborate with EMR vendors to insure that those services provided virtually are efficiently and accurately incorporated in the patient’s EMR.

Consumer Adoption

A 2018 Deloitte study reported that just 23% of consumers had a virtual visit with a physician or nurse. Of respondents who had not had a virtual care experience, a slight majority (57%) reported that they would be willing to try it. Typically, those that were unwilling to use virtual care cited concerns about the loss of a personal connection with their physician, quality of care and access.

Most healthcare marketers understand the messages that will resonate well with consumers in their marketplace. The Deloitte study helps us to understand the levers that we will need to pull in order to help any reluctant consumers be more open to the concepts of virtual care.

Physician Adoption

If consumers appear somewhat reluctant to use the technology, their physicians appear to be even less likely to adopt the practice. Just 14% of the physicians surveyed in the Deloitte survey had implemented the necessary technology for virtual visits, and just 18% of those physicians who did not currently have the technology had plans to add it within the next two years. When asked about the barriers to implementing virtual care, physicians cited concerns about medical errors, access to technology and data security as their main concerns.

In order to advance adoption of this technology among physicians, healthcare organizations will need to address concerns about medical errors, the technology itself, and information security. In addition, the Deloitte study suggests that physicians believe that the management of chronic conditions represents the best use of this technology. Virtual technologies such as remote patient monitoring, patient portals, and data integration from wearable technologies may represent good threshold technologies for virtual technology-averse physicians and practices.

Conclusion

Now that virtual technologies are no longer officially “new,” it is time to develop the strategies that will help us to successfully implement these technologies. As with any new process, that will mean ensuring that there is strong executive leadership and support for the implementation. Employee and physician education on the benefits and use of the technology are essential components to successful implementation. Marketing will also be an essential part of the team to insure that consumers are ready to embrace the technology in collaboration with their physicians based on what we know about the barriers to adoption.

Learn more about how HealthStream can help facilitate adoption of virtual technologies.

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