COVID-19 has made this a scary time to be sick. Many people are not only putting off primary care visits but also delaying treatment for small injuries or other causes of concern because of a perceived risk of infection associated with visiting medical offices. Virtual care (or telehealth) addresses these safety concerns and makes care more convenient, because it allows patients to access care from any location.
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
Low income and/or inability to miss work to seek care
With virtual care, patients’ ability to gain access to primary care services increases and providers have a better chance at addressing some of these social determinants of health.
The importance of access
Virtual care fills a huge void, whether or not a patient’s access to care is normally impeded by social determinants of health. A front door to healthcare is emerging via virtual health, and it is creating an exciting opportunity for better health outcomes.
Improved access to care is a huge talking point, but it’s not the only benefit of virtual care. Other potential benefits include:
Enhanced relationships between patients and providers
More timely health interventions
Decreased overall cost of care
Meeting the needs of organizations and workplaces
Virtual care encompasses two main types of care:
Both options allow patients to stay at work while receiving care, without having to take time off to travel to and from a care center. Connecting virtually preserves time and energy, and 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 a urinary tract infection, virtual care can also provide quick and simple solutions. It might be quicker and more manageable 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 is a key element of whole person care. It underlies overall health in many ways, yet getting patients to seek this type of care can be a challenge. Addressing behavioral health allows people to improve their mental, emotional, social, and even physical health. And this often results in employees who are more productive and happy within their work environments.
Vera has created a model where behavioral health is integrated into primary care. With the added option to participate virtually, barriers that would ordinarily prevent patients from receiving this type of care are removed.
Humanizing the virtual care experience
One of the benefits of virtual care at Vera is that it exists within the primary care model. Patients build relationships with their providers and each provider develops a deeper understanding of the people they’re helping. Relationships that began within a virtual format can also expand to in-person appointments when necessary.
Telemedicine companies sometimes take a different approach. Patients might meet with one provider one day and another at their next appointment. At Vera, we’ve integrated virtual care into primary care to provide continuity and establish an ongoing relationship between a patient and a single provider. This allows for a more personalized experience and better quality of care.
Because of our strong focus on value-based care, we’re very excited to be taking advantage of virtual care and the excellent opportunity it provides to reduce barriers to access.