Sometimes it takes a global pandemic to push innovation from the fringes to the mainstream. Virtual care has been gaining momentum for a number of years now, but while technology solutions have been readily available and increasingly sophisticated, uptake amongst healthcare providers has been limited. With the arrival of the COVID-19 virus in Australia, the need for virtual care was tangible and immediate. Several months into the pandemic, many healthcare providers made a start on their virtual care journey, but fast forward a couple of months and they are struggling with what to do next and what to aim for.
‘Virtual care’ means different things to different people. At Telstra Health our definition of virtual care focuses on helping connect providers and patients through technology to enable providers to support, manage and empower patients minimising the need for an in-person consultation. Virtual health at Telstra Health encompasses:
- Virtual clinical services, such as virtual consultation and coordination services.
- Virtual health monitoring, to help enable the remote monitoring of a patient’s condition.
- Virtual health connection, which includes the provision of communication, documentation and messaging services.
The value of virtual health is substantial and growing. A recent evaluation of the rollout of the Connect@Home Respiratory service in Victoria demonstrated that patients using the service had lower rates of attendance to the Emergency Department, and patients gave the service a Net Promoter Score of 9.7. Virtual care can also increase healthcare accessibility, particularly for patients living in rural and remote areas. The digital health offering helps open up new opportunities for early intervention and preventative care, can create improvements in efficiency and productivity, and can enhance care coordination between providers.
What we have learned from working with providers
The majority of our clients recognise the great potential virtual care can have, however many providers don’t know where to start, or are unclear as to how virtual care can help support them in scaling their services beyond an initial pilot.
We’ve shared our learnings from some of the projects we’ve been involved in, and have identified the factors that led to a smooth integration of virtual care services within a provider.
Organisations that tend to succeed in their virtual care journey typically:
- Have a clear vision for virtual care, which is set by leadership and driven by the entire organisation. This helps organisations transition from initial pilots and trials to a mature virtual care service delivery model.
- Drive change across all dimensions, including quality of care, people, process, technology, leadership and governance. It’s important to consider how the spectrum of virtual care solutions can be used to help improve the model of care.
- Engage clinicians early, to secure their support and input into the development of the models of care.
- Use data and evidence to identify which services and patient groups are most appropriate for virtual care.
- Focus on the model of care as much as the technology, and are clear how they expect the model of care to change with the shift to virtual care.
- Tailor services appropriately to help meet the needs of different patient groups.
- Monitor and measure the effectiveness of their virtual care initiatives on an ongoing basis and look to achieve continuous improvement.