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Physicians Are (Justfiably) Ambivalent About Virtual Care

Posted on July 30, 2018 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare consultant and analyst with 20 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. Contact her at @ziegerhealth on Twitter or visit her site at Zieger Healthcare.

It’s easy for pundits like myself to support virtual care. From my standpoint, it’s obvious that virtual care is the easiest and most effective way to handle many health conditions, from handling one-off issues like sore throats and sinusitis to managing long-term chronic conditions.

Not only that, emerging devices will allow patients to test their own blood, urine, heart rhythm and more. When these devices are perfected and put into common use, virtual care will become even more useful and appropriate.

Despite all of these signs of progress, though, physicians aren’t all in with virtual care just yet. According to a study by consulting firm Deloitte, doctors think virtual care might help with patient engagement and support. However, doctors said they would need to overcome several obstacles to virtual care use before they get involved.

Generally speaking, survey respondents seem to “get it” about telemedicine. In fact, according to the survey nine in 10 physicians understand the benefits of virtual care, particularly when it came to connecting with patients. They reported that these benefits include improved patient access to care (66%), increased patient satisfaction (52%) and staying connected with patients and their caregivers (45%).

They also said virtual care could improve patient care coordination (42%), boost the cost-effectiveness of care (42%), offer increased flexibility to clinician schedules (41%), streamline workflow (32%) and help them stay connected with peers and other clinicians (28%). Only 11% said they didn’t see any benefits to virtual care.

Given these advantages, you might think that physicians were gung-ho about virtual care adoption – but you’d be wrong. Just over a third (38%) have rolled out email/patient portal consultations, and 17% are conducting physician-to-physician electronic consultations. Only 14% are conducting virtual/video visits.

On a side note, I was interested to learn adoption of such technologies is higher among primary care physicians than specialists. The survey found that 48% of primary care physicians have implemented portals, compared with 34% of specialists, and that 17% of PCPs were offering video visits versus 13% of specialists.

Meanwhile, I was interested to learn that 43% of respondents who had electronic consultation tools at their disposal connected with colleagues at least once a week. In fact, I’m surprised to learn that this is even happening– electronic consults with between doctors and their peers was not on my radar.

But I wasn’t taken aback to learn that physicians employed or affiliated with hospitals and health systems (62%) made regular use of at least one virtual care technology. After all, hospitals are generally ahead of other providers when it comes to telemedicine. (For example, check out Intermountain’s virtual hospital program.)

Bottom line, physicians still face big obstacles to rolling out virtual care, including a need for training (51%), a lack of access to this technology (35%) and worries about security and privacy of patient data (33%).

All told, when I read about their reasonable objections, low physician adoption of virtual care makes a whole lot more sense. Until these concerns are addressed little is likely to change.

EMRs Should Include Telemedicine Capabilities

Posted on May 22, 2015 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare consultant and analyst with 20 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. Contact her at @ziegerhealth on Twitter or visit her site at Zieger Healthcare.

The volume of telemedicine visits is growing at a staggering pace, and they seem to have nowhere to go but up. In fact, a study released by Deloitte last August predicted that there would be 75 million virtual visits in 2014 and that there was room for 300 million visits a year going forward.

These telemedicine visits are generating a flood of medical data, some in familiar text formats and some in voice and video form. But since the entire encounter takes place outside of any EMR environment, huge volumes of such data are being left on the table.

Given the growing importance of telemedicine, the time has come for telemedicine providers to begin integrating virtual visit results into EMRs.  This might involve adopting specialized EMRs designed to capture video and voice, or EMR vendors might go with the times and develop ways of categorizing and integrating the full spectrum of telemedical contacts.

And as virtual visit data becomes increasingly important, providers and health plans will begin to demand that they get copies of telemedical encounter data.  It may not be clear yet how a provider or payer can effectively leverage video or voice content, which they’ve never had to do before, but if enough care is taking place in virtual environments they’ll have to figure out how to do so.

Ultimately, both enterprise and ambulatory EMRs will include technology allowing providers to search video, voice and text records from virtual consults.  These newest-gen EMRs may include software which can identify critical words spoken during a telemedical visit, such as “pain,” or “chest” which could be correlated with specific conditions.

It may be years before data gathered during virtual visits will stand on equal footing with traditional text-based EMR data and digital laboratory results.  As things stand today, telemedicine consults are used as a cheaper form of urgent care, and like an urgent care visit, the results are not usually considered a critical part of the patient’s long-term history.

But the more time patients spend getting their treatment from digital doctors on a screen, the more important the mass of medical data generated becomes. Now is the time to develop data structures and tools allowing clinicians and facilities to mine virtual visit data.  We’re entering a new era of medicine, one in which patients get better even when they can’t make it to a doctor’s office, so it’s critical that we develop the tools to learn from such encounters.

Healthbox Expands to European Startups

Posted on October 12, 2012 I Written By

Katie Clark is originally from Colorado and currently lives in Utah with her husband and son. She writes primarily for Smart Phone Health Care, but contributes to several Health Care Scene blogs, including EMR Thoughts, EMR and EHR, and EMR and HIPAA. She enjoys learning about Health IT and mHealth, and finding ways to improve her own health along the way.

Healthbox is known for helping new business startups by providing them with seed capital. The company has recently announced it would be expanding its services to London. In July, Healthbox began the search for health tech startups that will bring change to health care in Europe.

They hosted the first of many events across Europe to bring in potential startups, and the final selection was set to take place in September. The startups that were selected are set to receive £75,000 of seed capital, access to Healthbox’s mentors, wider industry network,  and access to Healthbox’s London offices.

Commenting on the launch of Healthbox’s accelerator in London, Nina Nashif, Founder of Healthbox, described why London was chosen to be the hub in Europe, and her feelings about the program:

London was the obvious place to come be part of the UK’s world-renowned academic institutions, science and tech traditions as well as being a gateway to the rest of Europe. It is the natural seedbed for new, passionate entreprenerus looking to grow their ideas. We are looking forward with some amazing people. Healthcare has traditionally been a challenging sector for innovation because by its very nature it has been risk averse. Healthbox has developed a new ecosystem and culture for stimulating change by bringing together early-stage companies with strategic organisations, individuals and investors who mutually benefit from working together on new ideas that transform health. We believe in the power of having a global network for exchange of ideas and learning.

There are several firms that are supporting the program, which include Bupa and Secro and Zone Digital, and there will be mentors from companies such as Care UK, Novo Nordisk, Dell, Deloitte, and DocCom.