In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, healthcare providers turned up to digital innovations such as the enablement of remote monitoring, virtual consultations, e-visits, etc. While these tech-health options (also known as telehealth) proved to be a great support during the pandemic times, the old-school, in-person visits & consultation remained indispensable. That is why hybrid telehealth is gaining ground in the healthcare industry.
Hybrid telehealth refers to the combination of care options that involve both in-person care as well as virtual consultation & care services. Healthcare CIOs are realizing the importance of this pair of treatments for successful care management.
Telehealth has come a long way in improving care coordination (example, chronic care management), providing access to care specialists (who would otherwise have been unavailable), offering convenience & removes barriers such as time off work, child care, travel time, etc. According to Forrester, around 1 billion virtual care visits were logged in 2020. In fact, there is an increase in telehealth claims from private insurance.
While telehealth services experienced a steep rise during the pandemic for various acute and chronic health-related issues, there is a large share of people who still prefer in-person consultation. This might be the preference for health problems that require special attention to critical vitals and physical presence for monitoring. This is the reason why hybrid telehealth is a thing today.
Telehealth Promotes Accessibility…
According to a survey conducted by J.D. Power, patients want their medical providers to continue offering telehealth services alongside in-person consultation.
Patients want to have digital options, primarily, for administrative healthcare tasks, such as appointment scheduling, inquiries about physician’s availability, check out the cost for tests or treatments, appointment reminders (through SMS or email), etc. Moreover, patients prefer telehealth services for the post-appointment follow-up messages that they get through patient portals, in-app notifications, text messages, or emails.
Another advantage that telehealth services provide is access to care in the minimum time possible. Baby boomers and Gen Z patients are most likely to expect immediate care access (approximately 0-3 days appointment booking) while Gen X & Millennials can wait up to 4-7 days. In fact, the lack of timely care access pushes patients to invest in convenient care rather than the best care option. With the telehealth virtual visit option, patients have the freedom to choose the care provider of their choice and conveniently access care within a preferred time window.
There are numerous ways telehealth services are being offered to make care convenient and affordable for patients. For example:
1. Synchronous Virtual Visits: When the doctor and patient communicate in real-time via video, phone call, live chat
2. Asynchronous Virtual Visits: When data/health vitals are shared in the form of images, messages, etc. This includes file transfers, surveys/forms, text messaging, etc.
3. Digital Clinical Encounters: This includes virtual health assistant, chatbot, clinical decision support, surveys/forms
4. Remote Monitoring: When the patient shares information such as blood pressure, sugar levels, etc. using third-party medical devices (Medical service integration, consumer device integration, endpoint devices, etc.
Depending upon clinical and patient requirements, telehealth services can be adopted. Telehealth software solutions can be developed with a variety of features, depending upon the kind of services that a provider wants to offer patients. It can be limited to appointment booking/reminding, virtual visits through chat/call/video, or can be extended to telemedicine integration.
But In-Person Visit Promotes Trust and Equity…
Certainly, the COVID-19 phase has surged the adoption of telehealth services across the world. Patients and physicians, who were skeptical about remote monitoring and virtual consultation have found high satisfaction in it. However, as the pandemic subsides, patients would definitely turn to in-person consultation as it promotes trust in the care services provided.
Meanwhile, patients would still want the providers to maintain a balance of online and in-person consultation as it offers assistance in various administrative tasks and provides emergency care on time, whenever needed.
Also, in-person consultation helps to deal with the shortcomings of telehealth services. For example, it’s not possible to visit a physician remotely for every type of treatment. Some of them strictly require imaging tests and blood work, which is only possible with an in-person visit. Moreover, not all insurers cover telehealth services, leading to out-of-pocket costs for treatment.
In addition to this, in-person visits offer a sense of trust when the patients have F2F communication with the physicians. That is why there is still a share of people who prioritize access to treatment over F2F visits.
Hybrid Telehealth: The Future of Healthcare
Both, telehealth services and in-person consultations have their own pros and cons. For providers to serve their patients, it is important to consider strategies that help them to maintain a balance between the two care services- digital and in-person patient access to care.
While telehealth services yield high patient satisfaction, there are some forms of care that would require the patients to be available for an in-person consultation. Striking a balance between the two and being able to create a hybrid telehealth environment would be helpful for provider financial bottom lines.
Now that the advantages of hybrid telehealth are clear, the point is how to get started with it. If you’re a care provider, offering in-person consultation to patients, then it’s high time to get started with telehealth services to support the care system. On the other side, if you already have a hybrid telehealth environment in place, then make sure that you’re able to maintain a balance between the two.
In doing so, our health-tech experts can help you out. Understanding the scale of care services, type of services & patients, our team designs a hybrid telehealth model for providers that helps to create a seamless balance between online and in-person consultation.
Connecting with our health tech experts for consultation is absolutely free. All you need to do is schedule a consultation call with them and our team will get back to you.