By Mitch Collier
Is virtual reality the new patient reality? According to some insiders, the patient experience of the future will transport users to a fully realized, computerized world.
As technology continues to advance in its uses for patient care, the role of VR will play a greater role in patients’ lives, but clinical guidance and personal engagement from a provider remain paramount to patient utilization.
The Rise of Digital Health
Employing VR is just a new avenue for treatment, but it’s meaningless without the proper guidance and greater understanding of a patient’s full health. It can also be used as complementary therapy in conjunction with more traditional wellness programs where participants interact with live health coaches.
With the rise of digital health, more organizations are exploring the use of VR and AI technology to improve patients’ health knowledge. But use of these new tools alone doesn’t necessarily ensure patient knowledge, and more importantly, patient action. Adding an in-person connection is the key to capturing insights from these devices and helps to establish relationships with users.
The key to success isn’t dependent on the expanding use of VR technology but understanding how to use those elements and other digital health tools such as wearables and social apps to connect patients with their health. By putting these together with a coordinated plan and guidance from health coaches, wellness programs can further drive patient engagement.
Coaching to Drive Engagement
Health coaches guide employees into personalized programs, preventive care, and lifestyle management programs. For employees who have multiple health risks, health coaches serve as an advocate with regular check-ins to provide support and encouragement. The use of wearable trackers helps monitor vitals such as heart rate and daily physical activity to give a more complete view of a person’s health.
Once participants become familiar with their wearable device, and the available information it can track through the online platform, we see more users engaging with the technology in a fun and competitive way. From there, our health coaches can introduce them to more advanced options of online physician network and VR meditation applications.
By having health coaches engaging with participants, we’re able to capture variables in a large amount of data to home in on the programs that are most beneficial, are most favored by employees, and ones that help to target more critical health conditions. This ultimately delivers a wellness program that is highly personalized, engaging, and begins to stem the tide of future health risks.
Creating Value Tailored to Users
Ultimately, if we’re going to be effective in improving the health of patients and delivering value to employers, programs need to be tailored, targeted, and engaging. For some employers, the use of trackers helped bring together all those goals. Utilizing health coaches to drive technology use creates a relationship much like a doctor-patient, helping employees become more engaged in their own health, armed with the tools to begin to self-manage their condition.
Using health coaches as an access point also helps to reduce the burden on traditional health care resources. For minor ailments and conditions, the onsite coaches can provide acute care and stay in touch with employees in a much easier fashion. For more serious or chronic conditions, health coaches can help direct employees to the most appropriate (and cost-effective) point of care.
The use of health coaches and VR applications simply creates new avenues to deliver care, with technology that is increasingly part of patients’ lives. The key is ensuring the program engages with patients so they participate and can begin to take more active improvements in their lives.
Mitch Collier knows that health empowerment begins with great program design—and lasting change requires a fundamental shift in how employees engage with health and wellness programs. As Vice President of Product Management for StayWell, he is responsible for optimizing the delivery of solutions to clinical and employer clients, and best-in-class functional design for all well-being products and services offers to a company’s workforce. Mitch holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Pacific University and has more than 15 years of clinical and consumer health experience, helping to deliver best-in-class technologies that illuminate the path to better health.