Considering the current state of healthcare, virtual health could be the answer.
The concept of virtual health has been around since the 1960s, but its demand has been on the rise in recent years. The number of households relying on virtual health was projected to go from 900,000 in 2013 to 22.6 million in 2018. The fact that healthcare costs are also on the rise, while the amount of practicing physicians is on the decline, indicates that the healthcare industry is in need of a solution.
The State of Healthcare
In addition to rising healthcare costs and a projected shortage of around 40,000 physicians within the next decade, the quality of care and how it’s perceived in the healthcare industry has much to benefit from virtual health.
According to the Harvard Business Review, an estimated 75 percent of money spent in the healthcare industry is focused on chronic illness treatment. Travel, hospital visits, and appropriate staffing are expenses that can be avoided by virtual health. In fact, about $6 billion could be saved annually through the use of virtual health. Applying virtual health not only to the treatment of chronic illnesses, but to annual patient visits and self-care could generate an annual economic value of around $10 billion.
The predicted shortage of physicians has posed an obvious threat on the already tight availability to healthcare.
When it comes to addressing minor issues like sinus infections or headaches, patients have been found to have an average wait time between five days to over two months—and that’s just in major cities. For those living in more rural areas, getting to a doctor can be nearly impossible, especially when they have disabilities that impede them from travel.
High Blood Pressure
If virtual health was applied to specific conditions like high-blood pressure management, the results would be 1.9 million hours worth of freed up time across the primary care physician (PCP) workforce.
Additionally, they also used diabetes care as an example of how much virtual health could benefit the wait times in that it would save 11.9 million hours across the PCP workforce.
Quality of Care
Quality of care and healthcare industry profits has been a topic of conversation for many years now. One approach is a system where payment is based on quality instead of the quantity. Virtual health could help facilitate a stronger relationship between a patient and physician, which would place more of an emphasis on quality.
Virtual Health: At a Glance
Virtual health and telehealth are two terms that are often used interchangeably, but the former is actually a component of the latter.
“Telehealth is a very broad category of solutions that service patients at a distance—so it could be doctor visits at a distance, it could be chronic management, it could be managing high-risk pregnancy, said Marcus Grindstaff, COO of Care Innovations.
Virtual health is the technology that allows telehealth to be delivered. It allows for virtual visits to happen between doctor and patient, it facilitates patients to seek a second opinion more readily, and also allows for the interaction of an offsite medical specialist and a patient who may be in a different city. It does not solely entail offering healthcare remotely as it includes technology like electronic personal health records and visual health kiosks. However, online portals and remote consultations also fall under the umbrella of virtual health.
Virtual health is a way to augment cost not only for the provider, but for the client as well.
With the addition of virtual health, patients can rely on brief remote consultations rather than missing work to make a doctor’s appointment on location.
For the healthcare provider, using kiosks or other virtual health technology during the triage stage allows the doctor to spend less time collecting and more time determining the right treatment.
There’s also the profit that stands to be made from the virtual health subsector, which was estimated to generate around $3.5 trillion by 2022. It was also estimated that 20 million households would use virtual health for an average of six virtual visits annually by 2018, according to Canopy Health.
The numbers prove that virtual health can be successfully incorporated into healthcare. A good example can be found in the case of a virtual visit program that was piloted at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and generated a 97 percent satisfaction rate with its patients. Seventy four percent felt the relationship with their provider was positively impacted from it and 87 percent of the patients who tested the program stated they would have otherwise had to make a trip to see their provider for treatment, as mentioned by Care Innovations.
As technology continues advancing, it will become increasingly evident that virtual health will serve to benefit the state of healthcare. It offers a way to augment both time and expenses, while contributing to an industry that is focused on delivering high-quality care.