In the wake of COVID-19, Modern Healthcare moved its annual Transformation Summit online. The five-part webinar series brought together healthcare and technology leaders to discuss topics like innovation in times of emergency, patient-centered care and mental health.
The rapid spread of COVID-19 across the U.S. may have given telemedicine adoption a kick forward—but video visits alone don’t capitalize on the possibilities of remote care.
In response to the outbreak, hospitals have been ramping up their use of telemedicine as a way to let patients receive care at home. At CHI Franciscan, part of CommonSpirit Health, physicians are now conducting almost 1,500 virtual patient visits per day. Before the pandemic, that number was closer to 20 daily visits.
“I really believe, coming out of this, that is something that we’re going to truly double-down on,” said Ketul Patel, CEO of CHI Franciscan and president of CommonSpirit’s Pacific Northwest division, during a session that was part of Modern Healthcare’s Transformation Summit webinar series.
A shift to more care being delivered remotely will be bolstered by new devices that help physicians collect patients’ clinical data from afar, said Roberta Schwartz, executive vice president and chief innovation officer at Houston Methodist.
Although hospitals have seen a sharp rise in telemedicine use with the outbreak, she suggested telemedicine will experience a dip once facilities can reopen for non-emergent care.
That dip could be driven by numerous factors, including patient and provider preferences, as well as reimbursement barriers. Although CMS has expanded reimbursement for telemedicine during the outbreak, those changes are set to lapse when the public health emergency ends.
That said, Schwartz expects telemedicine use to stay at a much higher rate than it was before COVID-19, especially as technology solutions become more sophisticated.
Dr. Aaron Neinstein, director of clinical informatics at the UCSF Center for Digital Health Innovation, cautioned leaders against feeling locked into video visits as their main strategy, advocating for the role that asynchronous telemedicine options can play alongside video visits and in-person care.
“One of the unfortunate discussions that I hear happening in a sort of binary term is whether we’re going to use in-person care or video visit care,” Neinstein said. Asynchronous communication, however, could build on those two care avenues by using chatbots or automated text messages for check-in and to evaluate a patient’s health between formal appointments with a physician.
“Video (will be) an important component in the future,” he said. “But we have to blend—in a rational manner—in-person care with synchronous video visit care with asynchronous remote monitoring-type care.”