We got an update from the chief medical information officer of one of our member systems about their ongoing progress in expanding telemedicine. Their rate of virtual visits peaked in late April, accounting for over half of all physician encounters. But like most systems, they’ve seen telemedicine visits drop to less than 20 percent of all appointments as physician offices have reopened.
In thinking about how the system will move telemedicine forward, she said, “We’re trying to be intentional and really design a top-notch consumer experience, with quality as the foundation.” They are going specialty-by-specialty, condition-by-condition, to redesign care pathways to optimally blend virtual and in-person care. It’s daunting, but she believes COVID-19 provided a model for how to do this quickly and effectively.
In just a few weeks, many systems stood up COVID management programs in the following way: algorithm-driven, online symptom triage triggers a virtual visit with a doctor. Testing is conducted at new, dedicated locations, to keep doctors’ offices as COVID-free as possible. Patients with concerning symptoms are monitored at home with pulse oximetry and regular check-ins; the same resources are used to ensure discharged patients are recovering well.
It’s the perfect example of how to design a safe, consumer-centered care pathway, using the whole of a health system’s resources. Now the challenge facing doctors and hospitals is: can this process be scaled across the hundreds of conditions that could benefit from a blend of virtual and traditional care?