Contributor: How a Health Cloud Can Help Create Seamless Virtual Health Care Experience in a Post–COVID-19 World

Patients worldwide are reluctant to visit clinics and hospitals amid fears of COVID-19. Implementing virtual care capabilities can not only relieve the patients of this fear by minimizing in-person exposure and preventing the virus from spreading, but also improve patient-centered care delivery.

Let us journey back to December 2019. "Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker" had just hit theaters. The crew of Expedition 61 was planning to ring in the new year 16 times from more than 250 miles above the Earth’s surface. Financial analysts in the United States were poring over the highly employed but slowing economy. The American health care system was busy working to decrease the escalating costs of health care.

And COVID-19 was beginning to spread across the globe.

Cut to April 2021. The COVID-19 pandemic has had an enormous impact on health, wealth, and well-being. The New York Times reports the daily count of US citizens being infected by the virus still exceeds an alarming 65,000. Although vaccines are now being administered, COVID-19 has already taken the lives of thousands of people and stretched resources thin, affecting the health care systems in most countries.

At this juncture, while the COVID-19 fear looms over the globe, and by extension, over the country, many patients are reluctant to visit clinics and hospitals to avoid potential exposure to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Implementing virtual care capabilities can not only relieve the patients of this fear by minimizing in-person exposure and preventing the virus from spreading, but also improve patient-centered care (PCC) delivery.

Virtual Care: The Future of Care Delivery

Virtual care is an umbrella term for the ways health care providers remotely interact with their patients, including telemedicine, video conferencing, phone visits, instant messaging, and texting.

While patients were leveraging telemedicine long before the pandemic, COVID-19 accelerated the adoption of telehealth and virtual visits, and brought us to the future for which health care organizations were not totally ready.

Care providers use virtual capabilities to both enable telemedicine and care coordination and to enhance practice performance using data and analytics and automated workflows. As people continue to self-isolate, digital platforms can help them communicate with health care professionals and digital patient communities.

However, the effective implementation of virtual care requires a platform such as a health cloud that can ingest a large amount of data from disparate sources, such as electronic medical records (EMRs), pharmacies, and payer claims, into a flexible and scalable data platform. Taking cues from the digital transformation of other industries, one thing is sure: Successful digitalization of health care requires consumer-centricity.

The solution thus lies in identifying the best practices that democratize virtual care models to enhance PCC, thereby improving the patient experience, quality, and health outcomes.

Enhancing Patient-Centered Care

PCC, as defined by the Institute of Medicine, refers to providing care that is respectful of, and responsive to, individual patient preferences, needs, and values, as well as ensuring that patient values guide all clinical decisions. The long-desired health care attribute applies a biopsychological perspective rather than a pure biomedical one, thus forging a strong partnership between the patient and the clinician.

The concept of PCC encapsulates 3 broad dimensions: a structural dimension, an interpersonal dimension, and a clinical dimension.

Structural Dimension: System Features for Patient-Centered Care

Persona-Based, Patient-Centric Approach

As health care organizations grow, it becomes imperative to assess complete sets of patients in their population and divide them into different personas and condition-based segments. Organizations must also be able to develop dynamic, individualized experiences for patients. To achieve this, it is essential to have a flexible health cloud that can integrate unified patient records from different data.

Sustainable Infrastructure

By partnering with different health care stakeholders, a sustainable and secure infrastructure can be built to coordinate care across health apps, devices, and care settings, and to help health systems accumulate data, draw out intelligence, and scale adoption across the enterprise.

The application programming interface (API)-driven approach used in dynamic health clouds empowers the providers and care managers to see all patient dataclinical, consumer, and behavioralin one place. Using customer relationship management (CRM) tools, the patient-facing teams can then work off the same platform to share patient information, improve patient experience, and become more efficient.

Further, partnering with government organizations can help boost connectivity and data transfer speeds to ensure care delivery to people of all socioeconomic statuses across all areas of the United States.

Efficient Appointment Systems

The success of PCC systems depends on easy appointment scheduling, seamless system navigation, and shorter wait times. This can be done efficiently by integrating a digital front door strategy powered by a cloud data platform and CRM, which can:

  • Provide patients with flexible and convenient appointment booking
  • Enable providers to track real-time appointment statuses
  • Give providers access to a detailed record of calls, EMRs, and more

Interpersonal Dimension: The Relational Aspect of Patient-Centered Care

New Models of Engagement and Relationship

Virtual care must be incorporated so that patients can adhere to their care plans, understand what’s being asked of them, and tie back to what really matters to them. During a telemedicine and/or virtual care consultation, patients usually have a chance to tell the doctor about their medical history and ask questions. The specialist, in turn, can ask the patients questions directly. Furthermore, the providers can access information about the patients' overall quality of life and financial and social situation. Thus, virtual care opens doors to holistic care.

Improve Health Literacy

In addition to aggregating and delivering information, efficient virtual models must also ensure that vital information on medications, insurance forms, medical forms, and more is comprehensible so it can be easily used by patients.

Clinical Dimension: Decision Support for Patient-Centered Care

Improve Care Delivery

Virtual care systems need to empower providers to deliver better health outcomes, improve the patient experience, and reduce costs. Systems, when powered by artificial intelligence, can even provide a cognitive platform to forecast local trends and predict health outcomes.

Seamless integration of these solutions into workflows with the help of a health cloud can assist care teams in:

  • Decision-making
  • Prioritizing patient care and treatment based on symptoms
  • Improving the practice of evidence-based medicine
  • Making records in revenue cycle smarter
  • Automating routine work processes

Measure Care Quality

As virtual care becomes more common, and starts incorporating social determinants data as well, quality measurement will continue to grow more complex. Thus, virtual care platforms must be built with an embedded analytics plug-in to track practice performance in terms of quantity and quality of health outcomes.

What Lies Ahead?

Vaccinations mean that the industry is closer to getting a handle on the virus, but it will take the effort of health care providers across the industry to adopt a modern approach to care delivery, making it accessible to patients anywhere at any time. And cloud-based data platforms will play a crucial role in strengthening virtual care and enabling the US health care system to move forward.