This article was first published in Beckers Healthcare on 18th August 2020.

Hospital leaders across the country are searching for ways to reduce costs without compromising patient care to recoup revenue lost during the COVID-19 pandemic. Elective surgery is a primary revenue driver for hospitals, but demand has fallen substantially as patients fear going to the hospital for treatment during the ongoing pandemic. Reducing the number of elective procedure cancellations serves as a cost-saving opportunity for hospitals, so it’s up to providers to convince patients that it’s safe to receive treatment at the hospital.

Deploying virtual care journeys is a key way hospitals can safely treat patients, while maintaining COVID-19 safety protocols and reassuring patients that it is safe to receive treatment. Robbie Hughes, the founder and CEO of Lumeon, discussed how hospitals can use virtual care in preoperative care to increase the number of elective procedures, and in turn, save costs, during an Aug. 11 panel hosted by Becker’s Hospital Review.

Five key takeaways from the panel:

1. Telemedicine is a big factor in hospitals’ efforts to find cost savings, but video consultations alone aren’t enough.
Sixty six percent of providers expect to have surgical cancellation rates of greater than 10% this year, but many lack the tools and resource to mitigate this. Increasing the volume of calls or video consultations with patients is a popular, but not a scalable solution and can add to care inconsistencies and patient confusion. Providers need better tools to continuously manage, assess and reassure patients across every step of their virtual journey, leveraging automation where suitable, as well as determining who is and isn’t suitable for virtual care.

2. Most hospital leaders are seeking 10 percent to 20 percent cost-savings in surgery to make up for losses caused by COVID-19.
Lumeon found in a survey of 102 hospital C-suite and surgery leaders conducted between May and June. Seventy percent of hospitals were operating at less than 75 percent capacity for elective surgeries. Patient surveys confirm a rising fear in going to hospitals to seek care, as 34 percent of people said they plan to wait seven months or more to schedule an elective surgery in a survey conducted by Jarrard Phillips Cate & Hancock. Knee and hip replacement surgeries are seeing average deferral lengths of six to 12 months.

3. Virtualizing the pre-operative care journey drives significant productivity increase.
By implementing a virtual care journey for a large West Coast IDN, Lumeon hoped to achieve a 40 percent increase in average daily case handling volumes, but was able to achieve a 60 percent increase. Of the patients invited to use the virtual care pathway, 90 percent engaged with the pathway from start to finish and 89 percent were eligible for virtual care, leaving only 11 percent of patients needing in-person visits. All patients were assigned to a system-driven pathway, coordinating tasks right up to surgery.

4. Virtual care journeys must adapt around the needs of each patient.
For meaningful results, virtual care journeys must be able to adapt in real-time to the needs of the individual. For example, Lumeon’s technology can identify if an individual patient’s lab results are abnormal and change the pathway accordingly, as well as examine patients’ recent medical records to find relevant results to be reused to reduce the number of preoperative tests needed. It can also adapt the pathway if the patient reports high anxiety scores.

5. Providers need to learn fast and iterate.
It’s not about getting it perfect first time, especially not when eliciting behavioral change. It’s a combination of understanding the details of the ‘as is’ pre-operative process, consulting evidence-based protocols, re-imagining the journey from the patient’s perspective, then putting mechanisms in place to learn and iteratively improve. The good news is that significant efficiency and cost savings are there for the taking within pre-operative processes, with minimal disruption to physician workflow.

Watch the full presentation recording by visiting: