As we’ve seen over the past year, telehealth has been an incredibly important tool to deliver healthcare to patients whether as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic to keep people safe or out of mere convenience. Similarly, virtual health is poised to become the next big thing in healthcare because of patient demand for greater digital communication with providers and healthcare organizations' need to engage better with patients.
The following are five reasons why virtual care will follow telehealth in expanding into a much sought after communications asset for healthcare organizations in 2021.
- More and more people are connecting digitally than ever before. Whether it be for communication or shopping or entertainment, more people want the ability to have digital connectivity to conduct daily life. In a consumer-driven economy, people want the speed, convenience and effectiveness of instant communication or the ability to make a real-time transaction because it’s easy, they’re busy, and it saves them time. Greater numbers of people own smartphones and are increasingly sending texts where they once would have made a phone call or sent an email.
- Virtual care and telehealth are on the upswing. The number of telehealth visits during the first quarter of 2020 increased by 50 percent compared with the same time period in 2019. During a single week in March 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported a 154 percent increase in telehealth visits. In addition, 83 percent of Americans say they expect to make telehealth visits after COVID-19, this in spite of the fact that just eight percent of patients had a telehealth visit prior to the pandemic. Patients can save over 100 minutes connecting via telehealth as opposed to an in-person visit, and they can conduct the appointment from the comfort of their own home. The telehealth market is expected to reach $186 billion by 2026.
- Virtual care and telehealth offer patients the digital communication access to healthcare they want. Patients want to be able to easily reach providers to schedule appointments, get appointment reminders, and ask questions without the hassle of having to make a phone call or the inconvenience of waiting on hold. Nearly 80 percent of patients want to be able to get text messages from their provider and 73 percent of patients want the ability to send texts to their provider. Increasingly, consumers are realizing the advantages of two-way texting and so are patients.
- Healthcare organizations are moving toward tools like virtual care to be able to communicate more efficiently with patients. It’s in providers’ best interests to embrace innovative patient communication tools like virtual care and telehealth. Not only are they the methods by which patients want to connect, but automated patient communications like virtual care are able to streamline scheduling communications and free up staff for more important duties. At the same time, things like automated appointment texts drive much better results that phone calls reminders and help providers increase confirmations while reducing no-shows and late cancellations. One patient communication preference study showed that appointment reminder texts sent in line with best practices can reduce no-shows by 156 percent.
- Virtual care and telehealth support better patient engagement and improved patient outcomes. When providers adopt virtual health tools like automated appointment reminders, digital recall, and two-way text messing, they’re communicating with patients in the way they want to connect. That means patients will be more likely to engage with their providers and receive the care they need which can result in increased patient satisfaction levels. When patients are actively engaged with their healthcare provider and receiving the care they need—whether it be an in-office appointment or telehealth visit—providers are much more likely to also see gains in patient outcomes.
The future of patient relationships will depend on providers’ ability to innovate and adopt the communication technologies that patients prefer. Virtual care and telehealth are leading the way in demonstrating how patients and providers can connect more meaningfully in an ever more digital healthcare space.
To learn more about how virtual care and telehealth are changing the healthcare communications landscape, download the guide “Seeing Patients Virtually and Getting Paid for It.”