In the rapidly evolving landscape of healthcare, one model of care has continued to grow: virtual care. As we continue to navigate the challenges posed by various health and social issues, owning our own health recovery and recognising the signs of illness early on have never been more crucial. Virtual care, driven by innovative technologies, is empowering individuals to take charge of their health journeys like never before.
The benefits of virtual care
As clinical pathways continue to be redesigned to meet the needs of the current and future patient, one of the most significant benefits seen of virtual care is its ability to put patients at the centre of their care journey, accessing the right clinical services at the right time. With virtual care, every patient has greater access to medical professionals, regardless of geographic location or physical limitations. This newfound accessibility not only reduces the burden of travel, but also facilitates regular check-ins and real-time monitoring, enabling healthcare providers to make more informed decisions about treatment plans.
Some of the advantages we see in virtual care include:
- Active tracking and monitoring, giving patient access and ownership of their own data
Virtual care empowers patients by providing them with the tools to actively participate in their recovery. Through virtual platforms, patients can access educational resources, track their progress, and engage in shared decision-making with healthcare providers. This level of engagement fosters a sense of ownership over one's health and encourages proactive involvement in treatment plans.
- Wearables for instant access to real-time information
For chronic conditions, wearable devices can track key health metrics and alert both patients and healthcare providers to any deviations from the norm. This early warning system enables prompt adjustments to treatment plans and lifestyle modifications, preventing complications and hospitalisations. In the context of mental health, virtual care platforms offer users the opportunity to identify changes in mood patterns and seek help before issues escalate using digital therapeutics.
- Timely intervention
Virtual care also addresses various barriers that have historically hindered timely medical intervention. For rural populations with limited access to healthcare facilities, virtual consultations bridge the gap, ensuring that medical expertise is within reach. Additionally, virtual care can reduce stigmas associated with seeking help for certain health issues, promoting open conversations and destigmatising mental health challenges.
In light of the challenges around workforce and skills shortage that healthcare organisations are facing, equipping the clinical and frontline staff with essential digital skills is paramount to delivering patient centric care. As technology continues to play a vital role in achieving the aims and ambitions of the health and care sector, clinicians must adapt to new tools and platforms to enhance patient care, streamline processes, and improve overall efficiency. Upskilling the clinical workforce with digital proficiency empowers healthcare professionals to navigate electronic health records, telehealth platforms, data analytics, and emerging technologies with confidence. By embracing digital skills, clinicians can unlock a world of possibilities that enable them to provide more personalised and effective care while staying at the forefront of healthcare innovation.
Healthcare leaders should contemplate the following points for consideration when building an environment for virtual care pathways:
- What clinical specialty would benefit from providing a virtual care pathway first?
- What is your patient and clinical engagement strategy both inside and outside the clinical setting?
- What is your workforce strategy in terms of learning and development?
- What plans do you have in place to optimise your current technology infrastructure for virtual care systems to operate safely?
- What clinical safety protocols do you have in place to regulate the use of remote monitoring devices?
- What does your data architecture look like to enable clinicians to make safe data-led decisions?
- What does the local clinical commissioning model look like to enable the virtual care model to efficiently operate?
- What does local best practice look like?
- What could your return-on-investment model look like?
What’s on the horizon for virtual care?
The future of healthcare is inevitably going to be a hybrid model that combines traditional in-person care with virtual solutions. While virtual care offers numerous benefits, it's important to acknowledge that not all medical situations can be managed remotely. However, the integration of both approaches can optimise patient outcomes by providing flexibility, convenience, and timely interventions when needed.
The ability to own our recovery, actively participate in treatment plans, and detect signs of illness earlier is empowering individuals to take charge of their well-being like never before.