As featured on Healthcare IT Today on 03-19-2021

By Rick Halton, Vice President of Marketing, Lumeon

For many providers, 2020 might have felt like being thrown out of an aircraft, at 10,000 feet, with no training on using the parachute. With hospital margins down to just 0.3% by the close of 2020 (without subsidies), those who had already made the transition to value-based care models have to some degree reduced reimbursement volatility and come out on top.

But the next few years will most likely continue to be a nail-biting trip, and there is little doubt virtual care will be a defining feature of it. Virtual care shows promise to ease the productivity shock on care teams, stop revenue leakage for the healthcare organization, and transition patients to a more meaningful virtual care journey beyond a deluge of video calls.

Without structural change, by 2022, the U.S. will need 1.1 million new RNs to avoid a nursing shortage, focusing our attention on the fact that virtual care must help nursing teams work more productively. At the same time, 56 percent of health care leaders, according to market research by Lumeon, agree that fragmentation of the care experience is their number one priority, and virtual care is showing promise to resolve the fragmentation challenge.

The ones who get virtual care right will be set up for success. Digital transformation is seen as the way forward, but it’s a vast topic, and many need help with where to start.

The Path to Orchestrated Virtual Care

You might be thinking you have two options to evolve your virtual care plans: either go strategic and hire a brilliant team of MBAs to figure it out for you, or deploy piecemeal with digital patient engagement solutions. Unfortunately, many providers don’t have ample surplus cash to hire expensive consultants, let alone the patience to embark on a year-long strategic planning project. The patient engagement solutions route could be a viable alternative, but it is ultimately just one leg of the virtual care four-legged stool – and without the other legs of care team coordination, clinical decision intelligence, and EHR integration, the stool will quickly collapse.

A faster, more cost-effective route is to deploy a virtual care orchestration engine. This route would enable you to start modestly deploying some initial use cases, while connecting up the complete care journey gradually over time as you realize the benefits. We call this the middle path – it’s one that doesn’t require you to eat the elephant, hire expensive consultants, or create a patchwork of vendor solutions that results in a complicated spaghetti mess. This middle path can be thought of as creating your care orchestration engine room, helping you navigate the patient through their care experience, choreograph the care team around it, and continually personalize each patient’s care plan. This orchestration engine gradually transforms care processes into coded, automated paths. It proactively drives care forward, engaging not just the patient but the entire care team, making them proactive, reducing error, and giving them better patient context.

Design for the Whole Journey, not Individual Parts.

We must avoid falling into the trap of fragmenting the care journey across the dualities of in-person and virtual care. We all recognize the value of telehealth services and can recognize how far along their quality has come, especially during the year of the pandemic. But real virtual care is so much more than this. Digital care, when well designed, is a fluid, personalized, and continuous journey, experienced not as a sequence of transactions but as a well-aligned, integrated whole.

From referral to recall, the benefits of the whole journey are much greater than the sum of the parts. The same is true with booking travel online, where scheduling is just one part of a broader experience. An effective online booking experience is designed end-to-end, with continuous support and guidance around rescheduling, cancellations, delay notifications, upgrades, check-in, to boarding, and beyond. When the healthcare industry emulates this model, we too can reap the benefits of offering a single, thoughtful, integrated experience – one that keeps the consumer delighted and coming back, and creates opportunities for deeper personalization, just like the preferred language, meals, seating, and loyalty benefits that online travel booking has to offer.

So, to plot a successful route to comprehensive virtual care, we must design, plan, and deploy the care journey as a continuous, flowing whole, while breaking up the journey into priority parts. One way to do this is to prioritize use cases focused on revenue recovery.

To get you on your way, download this free virtual care business case excel template here. This template includes a variety of use case scenarios, broken down into three hospital imperatives:

  • Virtual care use cases to stop revenue leakage
  • Virtual care use cases to boost team productivity
  • Virtual care use cases for a more profitable, sticky experience

As you build your business case, you will begin to see the benefits of thinking about the virtual care experience as a whole. Enter your own data and use cases to create your multimillion-dollar case for revenue recovery. How much revenue do you think you can recover over the next three years?

Download Virtual Care Business Case template