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Major Shifts in Healthcare [Implementing Long-Term Strategies for Telemedicine and Virtual Care]

In 2020, the healthcare industry was forced to reimagine care delivery and dive headfirst into telehealth and virtual health solutions. Research and consulting giant PwC recently released a new annual report titled “Top health industry issues of 2021: Will a shocked system emerge stronger?” After surveying 2,511 American consumers, 128 health plan executives, 153 healthcare provider organization executives, and 124 pharmaceutical and life sciences executives in August and September 2020, PwC concluded the healthcare industry should be prepared for major shifts ahead. These shifts include offering a growing variety of health services virtually and investing in patient navigation.

A Variety of Virtual Healthcare Services

In 2016, only 56 percent of employers covered telehealth benefits. In 2020, that number exploded to 95 percent. Even those employers who may have been hesitant to buy into telehealth or virtual services had to reconsider in the face of a global pandemic that forced everyone to alter the way they lived, worked, and consumed health services.

As medical providers suddenly found themselves stretched beyond limits, there was no time to evaluate what made the most sense for care delivery and patient experience. However, the sudden thrust to telemedicine served as a valuable experiment. PwC sought to provide some insight to help healthcare organizations navigate the telemedicine explosion post-pandemic.

PwC researchers say, “In the year ahead, the industry will work to determine which virtual visits make the most sense, and where and how they should take place.” According to the report, providers say specific areas are expected to find even stronger footing in the virtual world, starting this year.

Provider Organizations Must Help with Patient Navigation 

Another major shift in the healthcare system surrounds using virtual care to orchestrate care delivery for patients. PwC researchers say, “Tying virtual to in-person visits seamlessly is important for reducing leakage and maintaining ancillary services, follow-up appointments, and prescription levels.”

They concluded that providers could improve patient care and mitigate dropped handoffs by better integrating virtual patient visits in a care pathway. Fifty-one percent of consumers surveyed by PwC said they wanted a care coordinator or navigator to help orchestrate virtual and in-person care and provide support services.

Thus, 68 percent of provider executives surveyed plan to implement more care navigators and coordinators this year. The first point of contact for consumers is most likely to influence shepherding those patients through the healthcare system.

Now that provider organizations have had time to catch their breath, it’s time to begin implementing long-term strategies. As the healthcare landscape grows more and more competitive, there are a few ways healthcare providers can distinguish themselves.

  • Offer telehealth or virtual benefits that transcend geographies.
  • Provide free or low-cost telehealth consultations to attract new patients.
  • Prevent disparities by implementing apps that are readily available to all.

To learn more about how direct primary care offers bilingual Virtual DPC, telehealth, and stellar patient navigation — contact Healthcare2U.

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