As we enter yet another new year fraught with uncertainty for the healthcare industry, one aspect, at least, seems certain: As 2019 dawns, the potential of virtual reality in healthcare has never been greater — or more urgent, in the face of spending that, while moderated a bit from recent years, is still ballooned by general wastefulness and unnecessary costs.
With its power to curb healthcare expenses by streamlining delivery and cutting down on wasteful spending, virtual care is increasingly seen as not just a smart addition to the suite of services offered by America’s healthcare providers, but a necessary one, as well.
“Health systems and hospitals can't afford to ignore virtual health,” as Mandy Roth recently wrote for HealthLeaders Media. “If your system is lagging behind, it's crucial to forge ahead.”
Bold though this assertion may seem, Roth supports it by pointing out the power of virtual care to address a number of the healthcare industry’s most pressing challenges, including:
- Patient access to services
- Affordability of high-quality care
- Clinician and physician shortages
- Geographic and economic disparities in care
Virtual healthcare “provides the infrastructure that makes value-based care and population health initiatives work,” she continues. “And, with a shrinking workforce and a growing contingent of elderly patients, it also offers a method to address looming megatrends. This is one of those rare occasions when business strategy coincides with an opportunity to enhance patient care and improve health outcomes.”
Virtual Reality in Healthcare: ‘Playing an Increasingly Larger Role’
Though Roth makes it clear that “virtual care” is often used synonymously with other terms for digital healthcare delivery like telehealth and telemedicine, it’s specifically the “virtual” aspect that many experts see as the real harbinger of things to come.
“Virtual reality (VR) is playing an increasingly larger role in health care,” as Sharon Fisher explains in a look at VR”s role in healthcare delivery for the Idaho Business Review. “Pain relief is a particularly promising area, because using VR for it can not only reduce the pain itself, but can also do so at a lower cost – and with less chance of addiction – than by using opioids.”
And this is accomplished, Fisher emphasizes, not by replacing physicians and clinicians, but augmenting their work. In other words, virtual healthcare gives providers the power to practice at the top of their license while extending their expertise more efficiently to more patients, thus also helping to tackle the impact of personnel shortages.
“It’s not just a distraction,” as Seattle-based VR healthcare executive Howard Rose told Fisher. “It’s not replacing the therapist, it’s enhancing the ability to provide therapy.”
And, while the first impression of virtual care often involves procedures like performing surgery robotically or the remote management of chronic conditions, the real potential of virtual reality in healthcare includes an ever-growing variety of solutions.
‘Leveraging Technology to Make the Patient Experience Better’
Over at Wired, Andrea Powell describes the growing popularity of telehealth and virtual care as a boon to eliminating some of the healthcare’s more “awkward” moments. Charting a spurt of healthcare startups over the past year and a half, she notes how so many of these solutions are specifically geared towards easing the embarrassment factor in sensitive transactions like hair loss and sexual performance.
Websites offering such services “have already attracted thousands of visitors, along with millions in VC funding,” Powell adds, describing how the model is expanding from male-oriented health issues to a more universal application including birth control and skin care for women and migraine solutions for both genders.
Beyond the private sector, this potential is also being embraced by government agencies, as part of the seemingly never-ending mission to curb costs. The military has been an early adopter of telehealth, and is now embracing virtual care as a means to “allow patients to connect with healthcare providers across vast distances,” writes Bruce Green for a FedTech look at the military’s embrace of virtual care.
“Virtual health is all about providing a communication system and leveraging technology to make the patient experience better and the physician more efficient no matter their locations,” Green adds. “For instance, virtual health could help a patient avoid unnecessary travel to an MHS hospital for a wound check if the patient can transmit from home a video that shows that the wound is healing well.”
Virtual Reality in Healthcare Delivery: What’s the Route Forward?
But even providers who may realize this potential of virtual care to improve efficiencies and reduce costs may be less certain about how to make use of this groundbreaking technology. For these providers, what’s the route forward?
“My advice to any health system that is thinking about virtual health,” as Deloitte Consulting LLP’s Ken Abrams (MD/MBA) told Roth, “is to think about it not as a series of point solutions, but as an enterprise capability to advance the delivery of connected, coordinated care.”
“Moving fragmented telehealth services under a single virtual care umbrella is essential to maximize resources and achieve scale across an enterprise,” Roth adds. “Health systems successfully offering virtual care have one thing in common: they have an enterprise approach that maximizes use of resources, enables more efficient operations, consolidates workforce, and enables scale.”
Providers like Care Innovations® have seized upon this approach to offer virtual care services within a turnkey platform that combines essential telehealth components as part of one streamlined package that’s customized to meet the needs of any specific organization, facility or practice.
Care Innovations’ own virtual platform, for instance, offers providers the ability to integrate a full suite of essential digital care services into one streamlined service, including:
- Implementation of high-definition virtual visits
- Remote patient monitoring (RPM) program design and management
- Patient engagement tools
- Data and analytics services
- Administrative tasks like eligibility verification, appointment scheduling and payment processing
- Full integration with established platforms
- Compliance management, including EMR and HIPAA
- EMR data transfer and integration
- Provision of home-based, self-management mobile apps
Designed to be the most flexible such solution available to providers, the Care Innovations virtual services platform unites direct-to-consumer digital care with traditional medicine in ways that best complement a provider’s specific needs. It’s also designed to accelerate time-to-market — an increasingly essential feature for healthcare providers who need solutions sooner rather than later.
Care Innovations has been a pioneer and leader in virtual care delivery for more than 10 years. For more information on how our virtual care technology can help your organization reduce costs while improving efficiencies, we invite you contact us here to schedule a complimentary consultation with one of our virtual care specialists.