How Virtual Care Can Address the Triple Aim

Updated on June 18, 2018

CEO Lee Horner e1529103262801By Lee Horner

The Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI) developed the Triple Aim as a framework which can be used to increase the value of healthcare while optimizing the performance of the overall healthcare system. The key dimensions of the Triple Aim are:

  • Improving the individual experience of care (including quality and satisfaction)
  • Improving the health of populations
  • Reducing the per capita cost of care

The Triple Aim framework is a vision for transforming the healthcare system to better meet the needs of all stakeholders – patients/members, providers, payers, and health systems. Virtual care technology, which includes video, email, texting, and secure messaging capabilities, can help the healthcare industry achieve the Triple Aim by helping deliver timelier, higher quality care – at a lower cost. 

Improving Care Across the Health Continuum

Provider organizations can enhance the quality of care and patient satisfaction with virtual care. Virtual consults – using video to connect patients with specialists in times of need – can be conducted on any device at any time, and can help patients receive critical diagnoses and decisions without delay. With video technology, providers can deliver on-demand, effective care by quickly integrating offsite/remote specialists into the situation at hand. 

Population health can also benefit from virtual care technology. Virtual visits – using video to check in with patients/members before and after hospital stays – can help staff better monitor patient needs and reset patient expectations for the upcoming transition from inpatient to outpatient. With video technology, care coordinators and/or case managers can stay in more frequent contact with their patients/members. Medication reconciliation issues can be addressed in real time by integrating clinicians or pharmacists into the video call. Staff can also motivate better patient/member adherence by reinforcing the new behaviors which are needed to remain on track with the treatment plan.

Virtual care can positively impact the cost of healthcare when virtual visits are used as a substitute for (or a supplement to) traditional in-person appointments. With video technology, providers and staff can conduct virtual visits with at-home patients and decrease the travel time and related costs typically associated with in-home visits. Conducting virtual visits helps convert “drive time” to more “patient time.” Secure video conferencing technology enables care teams to see more patients, more frequently, and more cost-effectively.

Expanding the Triple Aim to Address Provider Burnout

In the Annals of Family Medicine, the authors Bodenheimer and Sinskey suggest that the Triple Aim should be expanded to a Quadruple Aim – with improving the satisfaction of providers and caregivers as the fourth key component in realizing a better state of the healthcare system. Physicians, clinicians, specialists, and other healthcare workers (including family/personal caregivers) report widespread burnout and dissatisfaction. Burnout negatively impacts the vision of the Triple Aim as it is correlated to lower patient satisfaction, reduced health outcomes, and increased costs. By expanding the Triple Aim to a Quadruple Aim, the healthcare system will improve the individual experience of care, improve population health, and reduce healthcare costs — while also improving the work life of healthcare providers.

Medscape’s 2018 National Physician Burnout & Depression Report highlights that 42% of physicians reported burnout overall. The top factors driving burnout included (note: respondents who reported burnout could select more than one contributing factor):

  • Too many bureaucratic tasks such as charting and paperwork: 56%
  • Spending too many hours at work: 39%
  • Lack of respect from administrators/employers, colleagues, or staff: 26%
  • Increasing computerization of practice such as EHR: 24%

Despite the heightened attention, “some leaders of healthcare organizations still do not yet have a deep understanding of the impact of burnout on the organization,” says William J. Maples, MD, executive director of the Institute for Healthcare Excellence. Dr. Maples shared that improving communication within clinical teams can be effective in reducing burnout; when information is not shared among team members, stress levels rise. He also indicated that improving communication improves efficiency.

Increasing Satisfaction Across the Continuum of Care

Virtual care technology can be used to help reduce burnout by improving collaboration among team members. For optimizing the continuum of care, virtual care technology can be the high-tech answer for the high-touch collaboration of patient care. Video technology can be used to improve the continuum of care by providing an opportunity (in verbal and visual form) to ensure that all care providers are connected, communicating, and collaborating in delivering patient-centered care across the health continuum. To alleviate burnout, various providers can conduct virtual visits to bring together the key care team members, regardless of role and facility. This alleviates the need for providers to travel to other locations to ensure care is well-coordinated at the various transition points. Technology can drive better internalization and integration, resulting in better coordination and collaboration – and better care for the individual patient or member.

Integrated and impactful care can be delivered outside of an organization’s four walls if all care team members actively coordinate and collaborate on behalf of the individual patient or member. The more that healthcare organizations, care team providers, and even patients/members realize that virtual care platforms can improve experiences, costs, and outcomes, the faster virtual care will be embraced across the healthcare system.

Lee Horner, CEO of Synzi, is responsible for corporate strategy and development at Synzi, with an emphasis on revenue growth, product direction and customer satisfaction.  Recognized as an innovator in technology and healthcare, Lee is focused on using technology to advance the timing and quality of care delivery.  His career includes over 25 years of enterprise operating experience, with a proven track record in creating and operating successful organizations that develop new technologies designed to transform the healthcare IT industry.


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