About three-fourths of healthcare providers have virtual care initiatives in place, and about a third are using remote patient monitoring to improve patient engagement and access to care and more of these programs are likely to come, according to a survey commissioned by KPMG LLP, the U.S. tax, audit and advisory firm.
"We are seeing a strategic shift in how providers are thinking about investment in digital health capabilities including virtual health platforms, enhanced portals and web interactions as well as scheduling and referral management tools to improve patient experience, increase access to care and provide continuity of care," Michael Beaty, a principal at KPMG's Healthcare & Life Sciences Practice, said.
Technology can remove the constraint of geography in healthcare, improving patient engagement, increasing convenience, and providing a higher quality treatment to remote areas. “Despite being used interchangeably, telemedicine connects the medical specialist-to-primary care or emergency department clinicians through technology. Telehealth connects clinicians directly with patients in their home, on mobile devices, or in community locations, such as retail pharmacies or employer health stations,” KPMG stated in a press release about the survey.
The survey was conducted by HIMSS Analytics and from Feb. 15 - March 17, 2017, 147 healthcare executives were polled about the state of adoption for virtual care services. The survey also explored the top challenges hospitals and healthcare systems face in digital health. Respondents were comprised of the C-suite, IT, and clinical leaders.
according to the survey, approximately 31 percent of healthcare organizations presently use video-based services and 34 percent offer remote patient monitoring. Expansion plans for these services could drive future use with another 44 percent seeing video-based services and 48 percent planning for remote patient monitoring, the survey found.
About half of providers said they had clinician-to-clinician consults or continuous monitoring through tele-stroke or tele-ICU offerings. The survey found some variance in the pace of adoption of Virtual Care, but three-quarters of providers have some form of telemedicine or telehealth offering but only a fraction call their program "advanced."
The survey found that healthcare organizations are adopting virtual care programs, but at widely varying rates.
Survey respondents were asked to classify the maturity of their virtual care initiatives. Forty-five percent said their organizations are just beginning with one or two pilot projects, while 29 percent categorized their initiatives as “early program investments with less than three FTE staff supporting the network for two-plus service lines across the organization.” Twenty-two percent of respondents said their organizations have a sustainable virtual care program with decentralized governance and service-line specific technologies, and 18 percent classified their virtual care initiatives as a sustainable virtual care program with central governance and standard clinical workflow, technology solution and performance measures (KPIs) reporting. Only 5 percent characterized their program as being advanced with central governance and standard clinical workflow, technology solution and KPI reporting, supporting greater than five service lines.
The survey respondents also identified a number of challenges in virtual care. About a quarter of survey respondents said "maintaining a sustainable business and/or financial model" was the biggest challenge, followed by adoption issues with clinicians (17 percent), defining a strategy to implement Virtual Care (12 percent), and regulatory compliance and risk/liability concerns (12 percent).
"The business case for implementing a Virtual Care program is improving as healthcare evolves toward value-based care incentives from limited fee-for-service reimbursements," Richard Bakalar, M.D., KPMG managing director and member of the firm's Global Healthcare Center of Excellence, said. "It's more efficient for high cost and limited clinical staff as well as other onsite resources, while making it more convenient and timely for patients to receive their care."