How to Improve Chronic Care with Virtual Care

Updated on September 15, 2018

Lee HornerBy Lee Horner

Virtual care is widely being recognized for its value-add to the healthcare ecosystem by making patient care more available and accessible. The role of virtual care is even more vital when used to deliver ongoing care to patients with a chronic condition. With virtual care technology, healthcare organizations can better manage and engage this patient population while lowering costs and enhancing overall outcomes.    

The U.S. National Center for Health Statistics defines chronic disease as a disease lasting three months or longer. Approximately 133 million Americans – more than 40% of the US population – is currently affected, and almost a third of the population has multiple chronic conditions. The cost of caring for these patients is significant. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 75 percent of the nation’s healthcare spending is related to chronic diseases. The related treatment is responsible for 96 cents per dollar for Medicare and 83 cents per dollar for Medicaid.

Optimizing care delivery for chronic diseases is critical for improving patient outcomes. Virtual care technology is gaining traction as more providers and care facilities and agencies recognize the impact that more convenient and cost-effective care will have on patient and provider satisfaction.

Virtual care enables patients to conveniently access care for their chronic conditions from the comfort of home. Patients (and their personal caregivers such as friends and family members) will value the flexibility of being able to participate in appointments and check-ins via video. Travel time and costs are minimized. Patients and their caregivers will miss fewer appointments and miss less work. Engaging patients via technology will make it easier for patients to continue to manage their health and also have any adherence issues, such as medication reconciliation, addressed in a timelier manner.

Advancing the care of chronic disease is critical. Implementing virtual care can help healthcare organizations improve how they manage and engage patients with chronic conditions. Using a virtual care communication platform, providers can program patient-specific emails or texts which remind patients of their daily medication regimen and diet/lifestyle requirements. Patients can also receive these HIPAA-compliant email or text reminders of their upcoming virtual visits.

To better manage population health, an organization’s administrator can monitor patient actions in terms of patients’ clicking on messages and participating in the virtual visits. If the administrator realizes that a patient has not followed up as directed, staff can be alerted to immediately reach out with an urgent request for the patient to immediately contact his/her care team. Using virtual care technology can help reduce the unnecessary (and expensive) use of emergency room visits and readmissions. As providers can use virtual care to detect potential patient issues before an in-person consult is needed, preventative care can be conveniently delivered via video, and in-person critical interventions can be minimized. Patients with chronic conditions receive only 56 percent of recommended preventive health care services per the New England Journal of Medicine. Virtual care technology can help remedy the situation.

Healthcare organizations can improve the overall outcomes by using virtual care to manage and engage specific patient populations. Excellence in patient care can be maintained throughout the care continuum. Providers can better monitor and motivate patient engagement and adherence in real-time and use the technology to incorporate other providers (e.g., specialists, pharmacists, interpreters, etc.) to address urgent patient issues without requiring onsite visits to the patient’s home or costly trips to the Emergency Department. Patients can remain aware of their role in the treatment of their chronic condition by using email, text, and video to stay in touch with their providers. As the US patient population with chronic diseases is estimated to increase by 18 percent by 2020, more healthcare organizations will understand that virtual care is critical to helping manage and engage these patients.   

Lee Horner, Chief Executive Officer 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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