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Podcast: WellSpan Health CMO Shares Insights About Virtual Care

Analysis  |  By Christopher Cheney  
   June 12, 2024

David Vega talks about the applications for virtual health as well as virtual health offerings at the Pennsylvania-based health system.

This week's HealthLeaders podcast focuses on the evolution of virtual care and how virtual care is being used at WellSpan Health.

Virtual care has become a widespread and effective area of medicine, says David Vega, MD, MBA, senior vice president and CMO at WellSpan.

"If you had asked me just a few years ago, I would have said virtual care is best for those patients who have minimal physical complaints that need to be evaluated," he says. "For example, the use of virtual care for mental health concerns grew very rapidly, while virtual health in the non-behavioral health space lagged behind. Then COVID hit. In our organization, we went from about a few hundred virtual visits per year to a few hundred virtual visits per day within just a couple of weeks."

When it comes to virtual care, necessity is the mother of invention, Vega says.

"For a subset of the population, virtual care quickly solved the problem of providing care in the ambulatory space and limiting possible exposure to COVID," he says. "Since then, both providers and consumers have learned that a great deal of care can be delivered safely and effectively virtually. This includes care for both acute illnesses and chronic conditions."

Virtual care is not appropriate or possible for all healthcare interactions, Vega says.

"Virtual care has limitations related to physical exams or procedures when needed. Acute emergencies such as heart attacks and severe injuries still need immediate, in-person attention," he says. "There is also diagnostic testing like blood tests and imaging studies that obviously cannot be performed virtually; although the overall management of a patient may involve virtual care. In addition, there are very complex diagnoses that may require in-person evaluation."

In addition, some patients face barriers that make using virtual care difficult, Vega says.

"On the consumer side, there are people who do not have access to the needed technology for virtual visits, or they may lack the digital literacy to use telehealth options effectively," he says. "There are also some individuals who have visual or hearing impediments that may make virtual care difficult to use."

In the podcast, Vega also focuses on how virtual care is being used at WellSpan:

  • How a partnership with Concert Health has created a collaborative care model that is increasing access to mental health services in the primary care setting
  • How working with KeyCare has increased the number of virtual visits that are available at WellSpan
  • How the health system is working with Artisight to help nurses in the inpatient setting
  • How WellSpan is conducting remote patient monitoring with virtual nursing

Christopher Cheney is the CMO editor at HealthLeaders.

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