According to the author Malcolm Gladwell, the tipping point is that magic moment when an idea, trend, or social behavior crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire. Healthcare may be on the verge of experiencing that magic moment when virtual care crosses the threshold.
In order to reach the tipping point, virtual care will need to address 3 things – access, application, and acceptance.
Access can be viewed from a few angles.
- From the hospital perspective, access is framing the network of specialists – whether on-staff, within the region, or across the nation – which can be contacted to support the hospital on an on-demand basis.
- From the provider perspective, access means that providers and/or staff can reach a specialist anytime, anywhere and on any device. It also means that providers spend less “windshield time” driving to a healthcare facility as the provider can be accessed at home (or elsewhere) to provide a virtual consult via video vs. in-person. The care team can also convert “drive time” to “patient time” by using video to conduct virtual visits instead of in-home visits with patients and members.
- From the health plan perspective, access translates to the ability to address the limitations in reaching out to members over the phone or in-person. Health plans can replace many traditional check-ins with virtual visits.
- From the patient / member perspective, access means the ability for healthcare “consumers” to receive healthcare in a more convenient manner, ideally from the comfort of their own home.
Application means that virtual care is increasingly used in a variety of care situations. With the modern evolution of virtual technology, healthcare is now practiced outside of the typical medical building or facility, with providers using everyday devices to communicate virtually with their colleagues – and with patients/members themselves. Within health systems, a virtual care platform can be integrated into existing workflows and readily applied across a hospital’s departments and floors – from the ER accessing a remote specialist for a virtual consult to a care coordinator conducting a follow-up virtual meeting with a patient who is recovering at home after a hospital stay. For health plans, a virtual care platform can be used to ensure that members are on-track with their treatment, especially within the initial 30 days after discharge, and also to engage members who have multiple co-morbidities or chronic conditions and may be in Care Management.
Acceptance reflects that everyone in the value chain of healthcare delivery is aligned in understanding the power of virtual care as a viable way to deliver impactful healthcare. Mindsets and behaviors are changing; virtual care is no longer viewed as alternative or non-traditional – especially by younger generations who expect to use technology in all facets of their life.
Regardless of how/when we reach the tipping point, virtual care is poised to move into the mainstream and help optimize satisfaction for all involved.