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Future of Virtual Care Coming Into Focus, Report Shows

Analysis  |  By Christopher Cheney  
   July 23, 2021

Omnichannel platforms and virtual care have several potential benefits for healthcare providers and patients, Chilmark Research report says.

A new report from Boston-based Chilmark Research provides insights on the future of virtual care after the coronavirus pandemic has passed.

Virtual care has expanded rapidly and broadly during the pandemic, with a recent McKinsey and Company report finding that telehealth utilization has stabilized at levels 38 times higher than before the pandemic. But the future of virtual care after the crisis phase of the pandemic has passed is unclear.

The new report from Chilmark Research features three key takeaways:

1. Omnichannel platforms aspire to become the centerpiece of provider workflow

  • Omnichannel platforms have the potential to transform the electronic health record into just one of many data sources for workflows and analytics
     
  • New interoperability rules and growing adoption of application programming interfaces make developing and integrating new data sources easier than ever
     
  • Omnichannel platform solutions cross over from simple data aggregation and reporting to transform their breadth of data into automated activity and concise recommendations

2. Payers and employers are offering access to more virtual care than ever before

  • Payers and employers are the fastest growing segment driving adoption of omnichannel care management
     
  • Reduced costs and overall utilization are valuable to health systems, payers, and employers
     
  • Solutions must include tools for overall wellness, behavioral health, and an integrated care model to successfully impact patient health

3. Omnichannel care offers better tools for engaging and sustaining the health of chronically ill patients

  • Longitudinal monitoring and increased patient involvement in care dramatically improves health outcomes, and targeted use of virtual tools reduces the impact on providers
     
  • Creating and maintaining patient-provider trust and long-term relationships are key to both ongoing revenue and improved patient outcomes
     
  • The most successful vendors cover as many chronic conditions as possible and offer services for other types of virtual engagement

The definition of virtual and omnichannel care has six elements:

  • Simple and seamless integration with clinical workflows
     
  • Ease of patient and user experience
     
  • Workflows and pathways that are customizable
     
  • Application programming interface tools for integration and deployment
     
  • Potent data capture for billing and validation
     
  • Utilization of transparent artificial intelligence and machine learning for clinical effectiveness and efficiency

There are several potential benefits of omnichannel care management in four primary areas, according to the Chilmark Research report

1. Innovation

  • Creating infrastructure and workflows capable of supporting new virtual tools and modes of care
     
  • Allowing the use of more efficient care pathways

2. Access

  • Increasing responsiveness of care teams and clinicians
     
  • Reducing wait times for encounters and limiting unnecessary appointments
     
  • Creating easier contact and communication with patients and more transparency into health status

3. Healthcare provider and patient burdens

  • Relieving clinician and staff workflow
     
  • Maximizing clinical and administrative productivity
     
  • Improving patient experience

4. Finance

  • Increasing billable encounters
     
  • Reducing care gaps and improving value-based care metrics
     
  • Redirecting utilization to the most appropriate and cost-efficient settings
     
  • Reducing development and integration costs

The Chilmark Research report highlights the near-term and longer-term impacts of the coronavirus pandemic on virtual care.

1. Near-term impacts

  • Widespread acceptance of telehealth and remote care
     
  • Accelerated adoption of virtual care reimbursements for Medicare and private payers
     
  • Relaxed licensing and scope of practice rules
     
  • Spike in virtual care spending and investments

2. Longer-term impacts

  • Healthcare provider acceptance of remote patient monitoring and virtual home care services
     
  • Patient comfort with remote care is expected to drive utilization of payer- and employer-sponsored health apps
     
  • Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services reimbursements and waivers for virtual care are likely to continue, but state exceptions and eased licensing are likely to expire

Related: Telehealth Expansion During Coronavirus Pandemic Changing Physician-Patient Relationship

Christopher Cheney is the senior clinical care​ editor at HealthLeaders.


KEY TAKEAWAYS

Omnichannel platforms have the potential to transform the electronic health record into just one of many data sources for workflows and analytics.

There are potential benefits of omnichannel care management in four primary areas: innovation, access, healthcare provider and patient burdens, and finance.

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services reimbursements and waivers for virtual care are likely to continue, but state exceptions and eased licensing are likely to expire.

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