Why not just use Zoom and Teams for virtual care?
Zoom and Teams are great for meetings, but they aren’t bespoke medical applications. They also don’t have the bespoke clinical security and governance requirements that come with dedicated virtual care platforms. Zoom and Teams are also not interoperable with the health system, for example with an EMR. When it comes to personal health data, you don’t want an ordinary meetings platform, you want a secure purpose-built clinical application that doesn’t disrupt the ecosystem.
What is the difference between telehealth and virtual care?
Virtual care can be differentiated from telehealth not just by technology but by the team - both by the bedside and behind the cameras. Telehealth is involved in full virtual care programs. Virtual care isn’t just pre-planned calls or video conferencing, it’s a dedicated staffing model that’s always available for a wide variety of use cases.
What evidence of benefits exist for virtual care?
There is a lot of anecdotal evidence available generally about the benefits of telehealth and virtual care, but both Philips and Teladoc have numerous reference sites and real world examples, like hospitals already using these models of care seeing reductions in NICU patients, reductions in mortality rates, reduction length of stay and inter hospitals transfers, and more.
There are both clinical and financial return on investment benefits that have been demonstrated when it comes to the utilisation of virtual care models of care with Philips and Teladoc.
How do you ensure successful implementation of virtual care?
It’s about the right solution for each patient situation - not every patient requires full remote monitoring combined with telehealth consultations, but a lot of them do. Having a wide range of intervention models and staffing models to support different tiers of acuity is important.
When implementing solutions, it’s helpful to not just expect to do the same type of healthcare you did before but delivered by video conference. You have to prioritise patients based on live biometric or deterioration data and focus scarce clinical staff on patients who require attention at that time, rather than giving the exact same amount of attention to everyone.
Have a dedicated workforce for virtual care. You don’t want all clinicians splitting time between business as usual care and virtual care. There might be the need to have specialised clinicians on call, but it’s worth considering having dedicated clinicians available and present to deliver virtual care, like any other call centre in other industries.
It’s about implementing a program that delivers on the quadruple aim: improving patient access to specialist care, creating hospital capacity, reducing cost of care not quality of care, and improving health outcomes. If you set out a program to factor all of those it will deliver a good outcome for the patient and a strong ROI for the health system.
How is Australia influencing the world in how virtual care is delivered?
Australia has always been early adopters of virtual care due to geographical distance and access challenges that exit. We have a thriving sector delivering remote patient monitoring devices and telehealth solutions, and we have hospital and healthcare systems that are keen to create these virtual care models.
Also Australia is influencing the world when it comes to hospital subscription (HITH), where a patient is considered inpatient but part of their stay is spent at home, so they are treated like an inpatient but at home. The US has drawn influence from HITH to deal with COVID, and likely Australia will draw influence from the hub and spoke models that have been operating in the inpatient space in the US to ultimately deliver virtual care, influenced across both countries.
What does the future for virtual care in Australia?
There’s been a lot of investment in infrastructure in hospitals, we should see accelerated adoption of virtual care solutions across hospital systems and investment in purpose built facilities to house all these solutions in one place to maximise economies of scale and deliver better access to care.
Hospitals want integrated enterprise wide solutions that make the full breadth of virtual care available to patients and physicians, and virtual care solutions are set to deliver on that need.
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