Virtual visits and telehealth solutions are here to stay. COVID-19 may have fast-tracked telemedicine (March 2020 saw a 154% increase in telehealth visits as compared to March 2019.), but in fact, the evolution of virtual care has only just begun.
- 38% of patients have received care via virtual visits in 2022 research shows
- 76% of patients who had a telehealth visitwould prefer to continue using telehealth in the future
And that’s a good thing – for payers, healthcare providers, and patients. Why? Because in addition to the obvious benefits of convenience and cost, virtual health visits can help providers and payers better address health inequities by expanding access to care and offering more flexible opportunities for care managers and members to communicate.
Telehealth Tools Can Support Efforts to Improve Member Outcomes, Care Delivery, and Health Equity
- Telehealth is a popular and desired method of care by patients
- Virtual visits can be used by providers and care managers with more patients
- Virtual visits offer more opportunities to connect with members
- Leveraging telehealth tools enables greater access to healthcare and related educational information
- Care teams can leverage virtual visits to identify barriers to care and address certain social determinants of health (SDOHs), especially around access to care or health literacy and education, as well as to ensure overall adherence to the care plan
- HELIOSvisit is a secure, HIPAA-compliant virtual visit platform that lets care managers (and providers) make care more equitable and available to anyone with access to a smartphone, tablet, or computer
H2: What Social Determinants Can Virtual Telehealth Tools Address?
SDOH are non-medical factors that affect health outcomes. And we know that they significantly impact a person’s ability to access and receive quality healthcare, afford care, understand healthcare terminology, conditions, and treatments, as well as be able to prioritize their own health, or advocate for themselves and/or a family member.
Virtual visits are a tool that providers and care teams can use to address certain SDOH, specifically around education and access to care.
How Virtual Visits Improve Care Access & Quality
Leveraging telehealth and video visits removes some of the major barriers to care.
- Transportation – Virtual visits don’t require travel, opening access for patients without regular transportation or those living in rural areas.
- Housing insecurity or neighborhood limitations– Wi-Fi and access to a device with a browser is all a patient needs for a virtual visit or video chat.
- Work-related challenges– Members’ jobs may not offer paid time off or make it difficult to get to a provider’s office during business hours. Virtual visits offer flexibility.
- Provider challenges– Whether short-staffed or short on time, providers may struggle to find enough time to spend educating patients on conditions, treatment, and follow-up. Care managers can step in virtually to bridge the gap and continue to reinforce that education, either during an appointment (while the patient is still in the provider’s office) or in the days and weeks after.
- Patient challenges– Patients may not always fully understand their conditions, treatments or medications, and may need extra time and education to feel fully informed. A care manager can be the “eyes and ears” inside the home by using virtual visits to add an additional layer of support, ensure barriers are addressed and continue to reinforce education and understanding of conditions and self-management techniques.
At the same time, virtual visits can improve access and quality of care by enabling:
- Improved communicationthrough a variety of digital channels and during more convenient hours (HELIOSvisit for example allows for two-way communication and file sharing with video and messenger chat features to account for varying environments and auditory needs)
- Easier triage to the appropriate care setting (for example, from a video visit a care manager may identify the member is in need of a prescription refill and help facilitate that quickly before the weekend. Or, they may recognize an impending exacerbation of a member’s condition and help schedule an in-person visit with a provider.)
- Tailored health education based on a member’s language, literacy and education levels, conditions, and needs
Now, let’s look at how virtual visits could help everyone in the healthcare ecosystem.
The Benefits of Telehealth For Healthcare Members, Care Teams, Providers And Payers Allows
- Better understand their unique health, including any complex or chronic conditions
- Feel more knowledgeable about how to improve and manage their own health, handle complex and chronic conditions, or implement prescribed treatments
- Adhere to their care plan, medications, or other prescribed care actions or items
- Access care and information easier, faster, with more flexibility
- Obtain care and information despite lack of transportation, insufficient funds, time, or location
Care Managers to:
- Verify a member’s health needs and information
- Identify and solve any medication issues
- Coordinate any additional care needs including referrals or follow-up visits
- Share important information and resources to educate the member about their health needs or condition(s)
- Connect members to community resources, services, and supports that could help with associated SDOHs, like housing, transportation, or food
- Address simpler care needs more expediently
- Increase the number of patients they can see and care for
- Offer a more personalized, private experience for patients
- Provide care and answers faster
- Prioritize in-person care for higher-risk or more complex conditions
- Provide more efficient, effective care to members
- Offer more care delivery and communication methods
- Reduce operational costs
- Improve health outcomes
- Better address population health management
- Enable more equitable care
- Create a more knowledgeable and engaged member base
Ensuring An Equity-Based Approach to Virtual Care
One final note. A key consideration before deploying a virtual care model is ensuring it won’t worsen challenges for vulnerable populations.
A solution like HELIOSvisit addresses SDOH without unnecessary technical complexity. It’s already built into the care management platform and is HIPAA-compliant, providing organizations with a secure, easy button for offering virtual visits, and making care more equitable and available to anyone with access to a smartphone, tablet, or computer.
Moreover, members get a link via email or text and simply click to begin the video visit. They don’t need to download an app or any other software. This is key for populations where challenges exist related to health literacy or tech literacy.
Additionally, because HELIOSvisit is built within the HELIOS platform, it’s connected to all the information and resources a care team needs to address health education and assess inequities.
For example, a care team member is helping a young mother of five tries to understand her youngest’s recently identified hearing loss. After walking the mom through the child’s diagnosis, she sends over a few articles and pamphlets to help the mother understand the hearing loss, how to help her child, signs to watch out for at school and at home, as well as make a next-step action plan for how to help the child adapt. She also connects the mom to a local community organization that supports families with hearing loss and offers free counseling and auditory help services. Everything was done with HELIOSvisit – the video chat, the file transfers, and the community connection.
Care management platforms with a built-in virtual solution, like HELIOSvisit, can help address health education and access inequities by connecting a member’s entire care history in one place while providing:
- Whole-person care with a care manager at the center of the provider-patient relationship
- Increased capabilities and opportunities for visits, so care managers can regularly connect with patients in an easy, more accessible way
- Face-to-face interactions,even when a home visit isn’t possible or feasible
What HELIOS Users Say About Using HELIOSvisit
“Using HELIOSvisit, I can still “see” what is happening inside the home- even when I am not able to be there in person.”
“It really makes the medication interview and reconciliation process so much easier than trying to do that telephonically. The member can hold the medication bottle up to the camera and I can see all the details I need, versus having them say (or spell) the names out. Then we can talk about why they take the medicine, what they know (and don’t know) about it and I can educate as we go!”