Preparing for healthcare’s next act - Staying connected anywhere

BY: Larry Koomson, MD
File photo
File photo

During the pandemic, Ghanaians experienced virtual care for the first time.

In the US, driven by stay-at-home orders and the fear of exposure, telehealth users nearly doubled in just six months, according to Hero Digital’s consumer survey.

For the most part, these first-timers, like what they tried and are primed to explore other modes of virtual care.

The spike in virtual visits opens the door to a distributed care model centered around the mobile consumer — what Jefferson Health CEO, Dr. Stephen Klasko, calls “healthcare with no address.”

That doesn’t mean the brick-and-mortar medical facility is going away any time soon, especially since rural consumers who can most benefit from telehealth are the least likely to have broadband access, and some peculiar services can only be delivered in-person.

However, in-person and virtual care will over time become connected touchpoints in a “one brand, many channels” experience.

Survey

In another recent survey of virtual care users in the US, 27 per cent of people surveyed tried telehealth for the first time during the pandemic.

Those who are managing a chronic condition were more eager than most, to embrace and see value in the new technology.

Now, having sampled its benefits, they can’t imagine doing without it. Seventy-four per cent of the respondents were willing to share their personal health data from Apps, wearables and devices.

Significant proportion of first-timers are more likely than average to have tried at home-care during the pandemic, Digital Health monitors (+37 per cent); mail-order pharmacies (+47 per cent) and at-home lab testing (+13 per cent).

They are also generally positive about telehealth and its outcomes.

As we continue to manage the pandemic, and tackle near-term challenges, how do we prepare as health care institutions, for what’s next, and begin defining what it will mean for our patients to “access care anywhere?”

Recent research findings argue that telehealth has less to do with technology and more to do with re-engineering systems of human resources in ways to overcome socio-cultural barriers and insures improved accessibility to quality healthcare services and organisational efficiency.

This has shifted the narrative towards home care health delivery.

However, re-calibrating digital transformation roadmap is a critical step in adjusting to the times; evaluating and prioritising, for best initiatives.

There is the need to establish an ongoing cycle of input and evaluation. We are not likely to get it right the first time. But that’s okay. We still have to start anyway.

Steps

Devoting time up-front to interview stakeholders, assess the current situation, and review the market landscape will be our first steps.

Also test and validate your progress with your key audiences, ensuring that your solutions are well-matched to your patient and staff needs.

To get started, projects must be organised by prior importance and urgency, giving extra weight to projects that are foundational to other activities.

For example, one cannot organise the drug courier service when one is not sure about which community pharmacies to engage with.

Address “quick win” projects (high business impact and low effort) to garner support and buy-in from key stakeholders.

For starters, the rampart activities of COVID-19 testing centers offer an in-house opportunity for rapid follow up of patients via telemedicine service and management of co-morbidities as a by-product.

The writer is Chief Medical Tele-Consultant,

Flamingo Health & Wellness.