Convenience has become the driving force of our era. From our sofa, we can buy a new dining room table, collaborate with coworkers or order a ride to the airport. With a tap of our finger, we can select a podcast or our favorite band or publish our own opus to the masses. Even more conveniently, we can dial up a doctor from home and describe our symptoms – with medication preferably delivered to our front door so we don’t have to visit the local pharmacy.
But wait, you might be thinking, isn’t that a good thing? After all, GlobalMed is a telemedicine company and we should be all about expanded options for remote care. Right? Well, yes – we are. But we only advocate for options that offer responsible medicine. Telehealth should never be the fast food of the clinical world. Yet that’s how it’s often positioned.
In our convenience culture, the digitization of mundane tasks – from grocery delivery to evaluating prospective vacation rentals – is partly fueling the consumerization of healthcare. Apps that cater to their most quixotic whims have taught patients to expect the same responsiveness and gratification from the healthcare industry. Consider that 90 percent of consumers rate immediacy as important or very important in customer service – and 73 percent say that valuing their time is the most important thing a company can do. Those kind of business demands may seem disconnected from medicine, but patients see it differently. Their thirst for speed has driven many of them to Direct-To-Consumer (DTC) apps, which they (and sometimes their doctors) believe is their only virtual option.
Unfortunately, these convenience consults rarely add long-term gain to a patient’s care outcomes or a clinician’s insights. Sometimes they’re even detrimental. Truly connected care means using agnostic, data-driven telemedicine to insert clinically advanced care at the right patient touchpoints. This kind of telemedicine still accelerates treatment for the patient, while providing the deep and nuanced oversight required to craft comprehensive care plans. In that sense, evidence-based virtual care can actually offer more of what both patients and providers want – even if they don’t realize those options are available.
Moving from Convenience Consults to Connected Care
Here are 6 reasons to banish the convenience economy model from medicine and evolve into a virtual continuous care model.
- Closing gaps in care. DTC telemedicine can fragment the patient’s care story if the primary care provider (PCP) doesn’t hear about it and the treatment is never recorded in the patient’s health record. But one-off visits don’t just fly in the face of the trend toward whole-person care; patients want their providers to be plugged into a central source of truth no matter where or when they seek treatment. In a world where 9 in 10 consumers want omnichannel service and connected experiences between channels, patients now expect the same seamless transfer of information between providers.
- Smarter chronic disease management. From monitoring the blood levels of a patient with diabetes to keeping a patient with failing kidneys in a local hospital, telemedicine can stop conditions from worsening and keep patients in their own homes or communities. Considering that 85 percent of older patients have at least one chronic health condition and 60 percent have at least two, this doesn’t just improve the patient experience – it reduces costs across the healthcare ecosystem.
- Faster interventions. Patients recovering from surgery at home or living with a serious illness can find it hard to travel to office appointments – which means that a downturn in their conditions can go unnoticed and untreated. Virtual follow-up care can help providers catch changes and prescribe treatment when it can do the most good, whether that means recognizing an alarming symptom or prescribing medication.
- Easier provider collaboration. A nephrologist, pharmacist, physical therapist, PCP, dentist and dermatologist may all treat the same patient, but finding and communicating with each other isn’t easy. Evidence-based virtual care using the right technology makes it simpler for providers to consult across facilities, exchange medical records and stay updated on new prescriptions, test results or injuries. Clinicians can base their care plans on complete, not partial, knowledge, and even catch a serious illness in time by interpreting a patient’s symptoms in their totality.
- Home health care. In the past, home health nurses have been able to provide a limited set of services. By connecting to other providers and resources through telemedicine, now these home health providers can consult with the patient’s PCP, request additional clinical or community services or communicate with distant caregivers and family members. Connected devices can also help them send vital signs and other results back to other practices, eliminating the need for a disabled or elderly patient to make an in-person visit.
- Better patient engagement and preventive care. Patients are all too familiar with healthcare roadblocks, whether it’s a two-hour trip to the nearest specialist, an inability to miss work or simply a reluctance to leave the house when sick. That’s the chief dynamic driving the DTC app ascent and it’s a major reason many patients skip preventive screenings. But easy access to remote medical expertise can motivate patients to engage more consistently with healthcare.
Choosing Responsible Telemedicine
It’s time to end the myopic view of telemedicine as the healthcare version of Lyft or Google Pay. Short-term convenience is appealing, but it should never come at the expense of long-term outcomes. By choosing evidence-based telemedicine over dead-end DTC visits, providers and patients can build a stronger healthcare world that’s as clinically responsible as it is convenient.