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the clock is ticking

Providers: Embrace Virtual, Ubiquitous Healthcare or Risk Extinction In large part, state and federal regulators are rolling out the red carpet for telemedicine. Are you ready? Here are ten crucial steps to take in your virtual care transformation. by Dan Watterson Principal, North Highland


here is little debate that virtual health is the future of healthcare. In fact, as has been written in this publication, the terms “virtual health, telehealth, and telemedicine” will be obsolete in the near future. Virtual health will be ubiquitous, a routine element of everyday healthcare. Health care systems and clinicians must embrace this shift in care delivery or risk being left behind. Inconsistent and fragmented reimbursement and regulations have generated robust debate regarding the timing of when healthcare will make the ultimate virtual shift. However, healthcare providers must devote resources today to begin the foundational implementations of virtual health in 20

Issue 10



order to keep pace with consumer demand and competition. A “wait and see attitude” could be catastrophic in today’s rapidly changing healthcare landscape. Online physician visits are happening more and more frequently and investment in the telemedicine market is expected to grow to $13 billion in 2020. According to a recent survey, between 53 and 67 percent of adults are willing to use video to manage chronic conditions and as of 2015, there were 100,000 mobile healthcare applications. According to an estimate, more than seven million patients worldwide utilize remote monitoring and connected medical devices. State government policy changes that make it easier for providers to offer and for patients to access telemedicine and virtual health care are gaining steam. There are several recent trends that show coverage expansion and standard-enhancing care delivery are on the rise: 1. Parity legislation requiring equal reimbursement for telehealth is becoming the norm 2. Almost half of states have signed onto the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact and in July 2017, North Carolina became the 26th state to join the enhanced Nurse Licensure Compact 3. Rules for a patient's location (the "originating site") during telehealth encounters are softening 4. New telehealth modalities beyond live video are being added 5. States are expanding the types of providers that can practice and be reimbursed for telehealth services This is just the beginning. In the next decade, we expect to see the expansion of remote monitoring through wearables and implantable tech, plus an even more powerful smartphone experience. Phones and wearable technology will contain built-in sensors to act as glucose meters, stethoscopes, pulse oximeters, transdermal blood chemistry monitors, and other biometric monitors. Flash forward to a day when patients receive a message on a smartwatch or smartphone that alerts them to contact

a clinician because of high blood pressure, irregular heart rhythm or abnormal blood chemistry/cell count. These virtual health trends fuel the fire for providers to forge ahead, though do so carefully and methodically. Dr. Randy Moore, President of Mercy Virtual, summed it up succinctly when he said this regarding the transition. “You have to figure out how to go from here to there without imploding or going bankrupt in between.” Providers must assess, strategize and implement with forethought. Pushing forward too fast or in the wrong direction could be as detrimental as doing nothing at all. No one can predict the future, and questions abound. What are the next steps toward realizing a future with ubiquitous healthcare? What are the patient needs to consider? Are patients ready to manage their own wellness? What can healthcare businesses do to be ready for this evolution?

10 crucial steps for providers to begin the virtual health transformation:


Remember the patients. Healthcare delivery today is physician-centric in design and, to no surprise, many virtual health programs are geared in the same fashion. While virtual health leaders continue to include the physician’s perspective in their efforts, they cannot ignore the patient’s point of view. It seems like a simple concept, but often no one asks the patient (or family) what would benefit them most. With increased competition from “payers as providers,”, internet-based telemedicine service companies, and the ever-present provider across town, understanding the patient’s “wants” is critical to success.


Don’t leave it all up to the techies. Integrate ubiquitous health strategically from a clinical standpoint, with IT as support, not vice versa. Virtual health is a fundamental change to how care is delivered, and how patient-to-clinician and/or clinician-to-clinician communication takes place. It requires detail, insight, oversight, and coordination from experienced clini-

Profile for Telemedicine Magazine

Telemedicine Magazine Issue 10  

Telemedicine Magazine covers the telemedicine, digital health and virtual care markets. The print publication is distributed quarterly to an...

Telemedicine Magazine Issue 10  

Telemedicine Magazine covers the telemedicine, digital health and virtual care markets. The print publication is distributed quarterly to an...