Healthcare organizations should make sure physicians and other caregivers are satisfied with their virtual care solutions if they want to expand their offerings.
Providers and hospitals can find ways to utilize telehealth to improve patient care, but Dan D’Orazio says healthcare organizations need to remember one critical point.
They need to pay attention to their clinicians and how much they enjoy using telehealth options, he says.
D’Orazio is the CEO of Sage Growth Partners, a healthcare consulting firm. The company recently produced a report on the use of telehealth and trends for hospitals and medical practices.
He sees potential for the expansion of telehealth, but organizations need to understand the needs of their clinicians in order to expand the use of virtual care.
“During COVID, providers, and consumers had to do this, and a lot of walls were knocked down,” D’Orazio says. “If we don't pay incredible attention to the provider satisfaction, this will plummet.”
Sage Growth Partners recently surveyed 155 healthcare professionals about their use of telehealth. The report, which was created in cooperation with Project Healthcare and The Disruption Lab, found increased use of telehealth in some areas and low usage in others.
Medical practices are increasingly using telehealth for behavioral health services, according to the report, which supports other studies of virtual care. Virtual visits for behavioral health rose from 13% to 20% over the past year. Hospitals are also using telehealth for chronic care management, with virtual care rising from 8% to 19%.
Both medical practices and hospitals are using telehealth for follow-up services, with virtual care accounting for 37% and 27% of those visits, respectively.
However, hospitals saw a substantial drop in telehealth for initial appointments, dropping from 21% to 11%. Only 5% of hospitals and practices are using telehealth for triage, which D’Orazio sees as a missed opportunity. Providers could use telehealth to screen patients that may not need to be seen in person, he says.
D’Orazio suggests that the reason there isn’t more widespread adoption of telehealth is because workflows haven’t been modified. He also says healthcare organizations need to monitor clinician’s comfort and ease of using telehealth.
Healthcare organizations looking to expand the use of telehealth should heed lessons from the implementation of electronic medical records, D’Orazio says.
“If you think about EMRs, how many clicks, right? No one's really waking up saying, ‘I love my EMR,’” D’Orazio says.
Healthcare organizations shouldn’t ignore stakeholders in developing telehealth strategies, he says. Telehealth offers the chance to improve patients’ relationships with providers.
“I think there's ways for this to create intimacy that did not exist,” D’Orazio says. “And we can't ignore the providers.”
If clinicians are ignored, he says, “It’ll die.”
When asked if healthcare organizations need to work on reducing clicks or providing better training for clinicians in the use of telehealth, D’Orazio says, “I think it’s all of the above.”
Hospitals and medical providers should view telehealth as more than a technology offering, he says. Telehealth and digital health should be considered in the context of their broader business and strategic goals.
Providers need to think about telehealth in terms of their care delivery models and their relationship with their payers, D’Orazio suggests. When that all comes together, D’Orazio says he expects to see wider adoption of telehealth.
D’Orazio says another obstacle to overcome is the perception among some clinicians that virtual care is only a second-rate offering compared to seeing patients in person. When asked about reasons to continue the use of telehealth, only 29% of hospitals and 27% of medical practices cited its clinical effectiveness, according to the report.
“I think they're going to need to figure out the right use cases for different populations, different disease modalities, and where it fits in the process,” D’Orazio says.
“It might be really effective as follow-up,” he adds. “So don't say telehealth is ineffective because we can't do it on the first visit. Maybe its real value is in follow-up care to people who would never really even be seen unless they came back in.”