COVID-19 made getting sick a frightening experience, one where many people put off primary care visits and delayed treatment for small injuries or other causes of concern. Visiting medical offices came with a perceived risk of infection. Virtual care (or telehealth) addressed those safety concerns, allowing patients to access support from any location.
Since the peak months of the pandemic, use of telehealth has gone down. However, this ASPE survey found that patients are utilizing these services at a significantly higher rate than prior to the emergence of COVID-19. It’s clear that virtual care is here to stay.
The additional benefits of virtual care
Virtual care has benefits that go beyond overcoming the limitations imposed by COVID-19. When implemented correctly, it can assist healthcare providers in addressing social determinants of health, a set of variables that affect a patient’s ability to receive care. Examples of social determinants of health include:
- Cultural beliefs around seeking medical care
- Physical proximity to a care center
- Lack of transportation
- Language barriers
- Low income and/or inability to miss work to seek care
Successful virtual care should improve patients’ ability to access primary care services, such as those included in the Vera advanced primary care (APC) model, so their providers can better address some of these social determinants of health.
However, virtual care fills a huge void whether or not a patient’s access to care is normally impeded by social determinants. Other potential benefits, which apply to all populations, include:
- Enhanced relationships between patients and providers
- More timely health interventions
- Decreased overall cost of care
How virtual care can meet the needs of organizations and their workforces
Virtual care encompasses two main types of care: phone and video visits. Both options allow patients to stay at work while receiving care, with no need to travel to and from a care center. Connecting virtually preserves time and energy, and it often means patients are not required to cut down drastically on working hours.
If an organization finds their employees are missing work for acute conditions, such as acute sinusitis or urinary tract infections, virtual care can also provide quick and simple solutions. It’s often faster and less stressful for a sick employee to:
- Jump onto a video visit with a provider
- Discuss their symptoms over the phone
- Receive a prescription without a required in-office visit
Behavioral health cannot be ignored
Behavioral health is a key element of whole person care. It underlies overall health in many ways, and employees with behavioral health support experience improved mental, emotional, social, and even physical health. Yet, employees are often reluctant to seek this form of care.
The Vera APC model combines behavioral health with primary care. With the added option to participate virtually, barriers that would ordinarily prevent employees from accessing this type of care are removed, creating happier and more productive work environments.
Humanizing the virtual care experience
One of the benefits of virtual care is that it is deeply integrated within the APC model to make healthcare more accessible to employee populations. Patients build relationships with their providers, and each provider develops a deeper understanding of the people they’re helping, including social determinants of health. Relationships that began within a virtual format can also expand to in-person appointments when necessary.
Telemedicine companies sometimes fall short by taking a different approach. Patients might meet with one provider one day and another the next. The Vera APC model provides continuity and establishes all-important, ongoing relationships between patients and their providers. This allows for a more personalized experience, better quality of care, and even a reduced total cost of care.
We’re committed to ensuring your employees get the support they need to improve their health outcomes, when and where they need it.
This is an updated version of a post originally published on November 9, 2021