Telehealth, Technology, Healthcare 101

The New Healthcare Delivery Model: A Blend of Telehealth and In-Person Visits

06/29/2022

Over the course of the pandemic, telehealth visits have become the new norm. As lockdowns, social distancing, and an overwhelmed healthcare system made in-person healthcare more difficult to access, patients and providers alike embraced virtual doctor’s visits as a convenient and viable option. 

In fact, the number of telehealth visits increased 78 times between February 2020 and April 2020.1 Currently, telehealth usage is around 38 times higher than it was before the pandemic, with more than two-thirds of provider visits occurring virtually1. And it seems as though telehealth is here to stay. Consumer research shows that patients still consider telehealth a key part of their healthcare services, and 40% said they plan to keep using virtual care moving forward1. 

Providers have an equally favorable view of telehealth, with 58% of physicians viewing virtual care in a more positive light now than they did pre-pandemic1. Indeed, around 84% of physicians started offering virtual visits during lockdowns, with 57% saying they will continue to do so post-COVID1.  

People are once again returning to in-person visits. Still, many patients have come to appreciate and even prefer the convenience and speed offered by telehealth, and plan to continue using it. To accommodate this shift in patient preferences, many providers are adopting a hybrid model of patient care that combines in-person and virtual visits. So, what does this model look like? 

In a hybrid scenario, a doctor may conduct a telehealth visit with a patient to assess their needs, offer a diagnosis, and recommend a treatment plan. Depending on what they find during the virtual visit, the doctor may then refer the patient to a specialist, order in-person lab work or imaging, or schedule an in-person visit at their own location, and then follow up later using telehealth. 

For example, a patient experiencing flu-like symptoms may consult with their primary provider via telehealth. That provider may refer the patient to a nearby clinic or testing site for a COVID-19 or flu test. The provider can also schedule a follow-up virtual visit with the patient to make sure the right care is received.  

Even with the wide acceptance of telehealth, some patients concerned about security issues or who need specialized care would rather see their doctors face-to-face. Some patients, especially older ones, may be wary of technology or want their physicians to really get to know them. For these patients, in-person visits remain an effective way to build trust and confidence.  

On the other hand, many patients feel that in-person doctors’ visits are often rushed — and they may not be wrong.  According to the Annals of Internal Medicine, physicians on average spend just 27% of their working day seeing patients face-to-face, while spending 49% on desk work and electronic record keeping2. Telehealth visits can free up more of providers’ time to spend consulting with patients, and allows providers to extend care beyond typical office hours. Telehealth saves patients’ time as well, by eliminating the commute, transportation barriers, and wait times. 

Bottom line: it’s important for providers who offer hybrid virtual and in-person services to make sure all their patients’ preferences are being met, and that their patients feel comfortable with how and where their care is delivered. The includes ensuring that telehealth and in-person care are seamlessly integrated to provide consistent, convenient, and simplified delivery for each patient. 

The DocDay online provider portal is one example of a healthcare delivery service that has achieved the right balance between telehealth and in-person care. Using DocDay, patients can schedule a virtual doctor’s visit seven days a week, when it’s most convenient for them. They can quickly secure an appointment, and consult with their provider without the commute or the waiting room. With DocDay, patients also have on-demand access to a virtual care team that’s available to answer questions. 

DocDay delivers the advantages of in-person care, as well. When necessary, DocDay also allows providers to refer their patients to in-person visits with other doctors and specialists in their area. 

There’s no question that the pandemic has accelerated the adoption of telehealth and changed the way healthcare services are delivered. We believe these changes are a good thing, and will help more people access the healthcare they need more easily, conveniently, and affordably. 

If you’re interested in learning about hybrid healthcare services, give us a call at (800) 467-4898. We’re here to connect you to the healthcare you need, on your terms. 

 

  1. https://www.mckinsey.com/industries/healthcare-systems-and-services/our-insights/telehealth-a-quarter-trillion-dollar-post-covid-19-reality
  2. https://www.acpjournals.org/doi/10.7326/M16-0961

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