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Virtual Consults are the Norm in Digital Health, So What’s Next?

Previously, I highlighted the importance of patient personalization. My next blog in this series outlines virtual consults and the major role they play today in the patient experience.

For years, projecting the market for virtual health was an exercise in futility. But virtual consults have finally become a relatively normalized component of healthcare delivery, albeit with most volume focused on lower-risk categories for now. This represents consumers’ familiarity and comfort with using established tools for video communication in a specific healthcare context.

Some elements of the business model challenges that dogged early years—reimbursement in particular—continue to complicate deployments, but from a consumer perspective, they are entrenched.

The next question is whether the comfort level with virtual consults will drive greater comfort with, and possibly faster maturity curves for, the adoption of the huge array of therapeutic area-specific solutions, synchronous and especially asynchronous, that emerge almost weekly. Experimentation, in small populations, of digital health tools to manage everything from migraines to multiple sclerosis has been undertaken for more than a decade.

Depending on the TA, these monitoring solutions have a wide disparity in adoption, but adoption is still well below 5% within condition populations that could benefit. As virtual consults become a staple interaction tool, the impact on adoption in asynchronous tools cannot be far behind.

In 2019, this storyline will begin to unfold more rapidly. Entities that are able to couple these tools with the more personalized patient experience discussed will address multiple challenges and stand out in the industry. Entities that are able to partner with emerging vendors to leverage data and insight generated from these encounters will be even better positioned on their path to value-based care.

That leaves the question of governance. In the context of digital care delivery this will drive much debate about the extent to which provider systems have to take on a curation role; a formulary role almost, in the adoption of digital health technologies. Already, AMCs and entrepreneurial-minded systems are a breeding ground for pilots of multiple solutions. At a certain point though, the leaders in this field will perfect mechanisms for getting emergent ideas to scale in their patient populations with a minimum of fuss, and the next stage of digital health delivery will have truly begun

Questions to Consider

  • Are you thinking holistically about patient technology options, layering in virtual consults and the range of additional tools as one cohesive experience?
  • Are you prepared to incorporate data from asynchronous tools? Do you have effective innovation relationships with emerging vendors?
  • How does your governance culture—in particular with respect to experimentation in digital health promote interaction between clinical and operations in delivering outside pure clinical environments?

To learn more about the top five digital health trends for providers, you can click here or download the guide below.

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David Allen

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