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  • Brad Herrick

Virtual is a Big Reality in Healthcare Today

Updated: Nov 14, 2020

Ok, I don't like the term "virtual", but it makes for a catchy headline. We are entering an era that will see telehealth proliferate like never before. The term "virtual" will fade into history and there will only be care delivered in multiple ways, and mostly online. Because of the imbalance of physician supply to patient demand, telehealth has been an aspiration for many healthcare providers. However, until the COVID-19 Pandemic hit the scene, it was considered an ancillary service for many health systems rather than a foundational patient access strategy. Now, telehealth has catapulted to the forefront of patient engagement.

Consider this: the healthcare sector has raised more than $13 billion in initial public offerings in this year's third quarter alone, mostly spurred by telehealth. (Modern Healthcare, October 26, 2020). Digital health start-ups raised more than $4 billion in in venture capital funding in Q3, an increase of 100% over last year. Mergers and acquisitions are in full swing for telehealth.

Why such interest in telehealth during this economic downturn? Healthcare is witnessing the "perfect storm" when it comes to digital patient engagement. First, the technology has existed for years and was waiting for an increase in demand. Second, the pandemic has forced the government to ease restrictions on telehealth. Healthcare providers may now provide telehealth services to patients using remote communication technologies, such as commonly used apps – including FaceTime, Facebook Messenger, Google Hangouts, Zoom, or Skype – for telehealth services, even if the application does not fully comply with HIPAA rules. Additionally, CMS has issued temporary measures to make it easier for people enrolled in Medicare and Medicaid to receive medical care through telehealth services during the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency.

However, neither of these twin efforts could be effective without a dramatic change in consumer behavioral attitudes toward telemedicine. During the early stages of the pandemic, 71% of patients had considered telemedicine while half had already gone through with a virtual appointment. (Medical Economics, 2020). Moving forward, consumers will demand an omnichannel healthcare experience that incorporates telehealth as an essential access option.

No matter if you are a private physician practice or a large, multi-hospital health system, you need to incorporate telehealth into your Digital Front Door strategy. This means a thorough analysis of the patient journey, from searching within a physician directory, to online scheduling, virtual visit and follow up. Careful attention should be paid to the integration and interrelationship between the "retail" experience and the online experience, creating fluid touch-points between the two.

To help healthcare organizations improve the patient experience, Surge Health has created a Digital Front Door Audit that assesses the people, processes and technology needed to have a superior customer experience. The audit identifies gaps in the customer experience, compares the client's current situation with industry best practices, and provides a roadmap for future planning.

For more information about the Digital Front Door Audit, contact

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