Like any technology, virtual care has its advantages and disadvantages. While many in the industry point to virtual care as a strategy for reducing healthcare costs, raising care accessibility, and even helping to improve patient outcomes, some remain doubtful of the extent to which virtual care delivers on these promises. Other providers may wonder whether adding virtual care to their practices is worth the time and effort.
Here’s a quick review of the top pros and cons of virtual care to help you decide if it is right for your health system or hospital. Get further insight by requesting a demo.
Pros of Virtual Care
We are living in the age of virtual care. With over 2/3 of Americans now using smartphones and tablets, the mobile revolution has helped make adopting virtual care software a much less costly and technologically complex endeavor than in the past. Many modern virtual care software solutions require only a computer or smartphone, and an internet connection to complete a virtual care visit.
1. Virtual Care Can Expand Your Patient Base.
With virtual care, a patient can get convenient healthcare solutions from the comfort of their own home. This allows many patients to access specialists they wouldn’t normally be able to see for treatment.
Hospitals and health systems can take advantage of this by expanding their patient base and strengthening relationships with existing patients. Virtual care allows specialists to connect with patients outside of their geographic region, which is especially effective in:
- Post surgical follow-up
- Behavioral health
- Urgent care
- ED Triage
2. Virtual Care is Cost-Efficient.
Virtual care is often a less expensive alternative to in-office visits for both patients and providers.
A 2015 study found the average healthcare visit costs a patient $43 just in lost time – that’s in addition to the patient’s actual medical bill. Removing the time sitting in the waiting room and commuting to the clinic can be a tremendous benefit for them, especially if they have a chronic condition that requires frequent appointments.
Many virtual care platforms have patient enrollment and scheduling features that streamline virtual appointment booking. A built-in billing system also makes patient payment collections for virtual appointments simple, with no time or money spent on sending out paper bills.
Virtual care can allow providers to have follow-up visits or check in on chronic patients with a smaller time commitment than an in-office visit. Offering virtual visits can also help you drive down no-show and late appointment rates, helping you to streamline your appointment schedule and avoid wasted time.
3. Engage Patients and Get Better Patient Outcomes.
Being able to check in on a patient remotely allows providers to reinforce treatment adherence – which can be a crucial part of preventing unnecessary hospital admissions and maintaining patient health.
If a patient has questions about a medication or thinks they need to change their treatment plan, virtual care allows them to quickly and conveniently check in with their provider for guidance. This helps improve adherence, ultimately leads to better patient outcomes.
Virtual care can also be a great tool for helping patients feel more in charge of their health, a confidence vital for lifetime good health.
Cons of Virtual Care
While many are optimistic about the potential of virtual care, others in the industry still have some concerns. Virtual care technology has come a long way, but it’s not flawless. And with the breakneck speed that telehealth technology is developing, the regulatory landscape has been struggling to keep up.
The most obvious disadvantages of virtual care involve the continuing need for clearer, streamlined policies and standards around telehealth practice to enable easier implementation.
1. Regulatory and Industry Barriers.
Telemedicine regulations vary from state-to-state, and can be hard to decipher. The COVID-19 waivers put in place in 2020 also muddied the waters. When those waivers expire, reimbursement experts in your system will need to evaluate and update their processes.
Some tools fall in a grey area of security, and healthcare leaders may worry that patient privacy is not adequately protected. Problems in the mHealth industry, like a lack of interoperability in EHR systems, can sometimes further complicate the use of virtual care. Some practitioners are reluctant to use telemedicine when it seems the industry is constantly in flux.
2. Physical Examination is Limited.
Until relatively recently, live video communications technology wasn’t advanced enough to allow for comprehensive medical care. Today, most patients and providers have easy access to technology that allows high-quality video-conferencing. But for some providers, a virtual visit may not seem enough to diagnose or treat a patient.
Although virtual care can be very effective for many minor conditions, physicians may not feel comfortable conducting an examination over video chat. Some patients may also see this as a reason to choose in-person visit over virtual appointments.
3. Telemedicine Equipment and Technology.
Telemedicine facilitates many remote health services, including chronic patient monitoring, therapy appointments, and post-operative care. All these services run on software and hardware which can sometimes be costly–requiring training to use, additional IT staff to hire, and the purchase of servers or other ancillary equipment besides the software.
Also, as is true of all technology, glitches occur. If problems arise during a virtual visit, the communication halts. That risk may be enough for some to steer clear of telehealth platforms..
There may be a patient base which is not computer-literate, or may worry about equipment costs and setup. Still others may just not be able to find a user-friendly telehealth platform that fits their needs.
These virtual care advantages and disadvantages are always changing with technology, but they all reflect age-old principles. When a virtual care platform has a low cost of entry, little financial risk, and effective security features, the utilization of it improves, patient outcomes improve, and healthcare costs go down.
Related: Healthcare Solutions