Today’s use of telehealth in healthcare has evolved since its initial roots from the first half of the 20th century. According to the NCBI, an April 1924 cover for the magazine Radio News foreshadowed telemedicine with its illustration of a "radio doctor" which connected to the patient via both sound and live picture. In 1948, the first radiologic images were sent via telephone across 24 miles in Eastern Pennsylvania, between West Chester and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
After this early idea of the future delivery of healthcare, telehealth began to take shape in various forms at critical junctures. The initial use cases were developed in order to address the challenges of reaching rural patients.
Growth in adoption and utilization – by medical providers, hospitals, payers, and patients themselves – reflects that the value chain of healthcare delivery is aligned in recognizing the power of telehealth as a viable way to deliver impactful healthcare. Mindsets and behaviors are changing; all generations expect to use technology in all facets of their life, including healthcare
Virtual care is the new face of healthcare. Virtual care “goes beyond” traditional telehealth providing real-time communication, expanded capabilities, patient- and provider-driven convenience, flexible channels, and enhanced care.
Communication: Driving real-time communication between providers, specialists, and patients. In emergency and urgent care situations, virtual care is the answer for providers in need of immediate and effective diagnoses and decisions. Virtual consults will be the go-to-solution for ensuring that patients are getting “seen” by specialists, regardless of the specialists’ location.
Capabilities: Enabling smaller and/or rural hospitals to leverage specialists from other facilities. For non-metro area hospitals, virtual care is the answer for broadening and deepening the hospitals’ capabilities by allowing staff to reach out to specialists who may be hours away and/or associated with a different hospital. Virtual consults will be the go-to-solution for giving smaller and more remote hospitals extended and enhanced specialized staff, resulting in augmented and accelerated care of these rural communities’ patients.
Convenience: Reducing windshield time spent by providers, specialists and patients. For providers and patients who spend much time driving to/from appointments and various facilities, virtual care is the answer for reducing time behind the wheel and time waiting for an appointment. Virtual visits will be the go-to-solution for situations where patients do not need to be physically present, but providers and patients need to be able to see and speak with each other in real-time to ensure adherence to the treatment plan.
Channels: Allowing patients to participate in their healthcare from any device, anywhere, and at any time. For patients, and caregivers, virtual care platforms is the answer for keeping on top of healthcare communications with one’s care staff. Virtual check-in’s will be the go-to-solution for conducting impactful conversations whenever and wherever someone might be, allowing patients and caregivers to remain engaged in their relationship with their care and their providers.
Care: Enhancing patient engagement, overall satisfaction and outcomes. Ultimately, virtual care will continue to transform the timing and delivery of patient care. Providers, specialists, and patients already recognize the benefits and value of telehealth. In time, virtual care will supersede telehealth in terms of its value in healthcare processes and delivery methods.
Virtual care is ready to meet the needs of the aging senior population, the growing population in developing countries, and the increasing incidence in chronic diseases. According to Tractica, the number of virtual consults is expected to grow to 158.4 MM by 2020, a 700% increase vs. 2014. For optimizing the delivery of care (at a point in time) and the transition of care (across the care continuum), virtual care is the high-tech answer for the high-touch delivery of patient care. Virtual care will provide an optimal in verbal and visual form) to ensure that patients and care providers are connected, communicating, and collaborating across the health continuum.
Edited by Ken Briodagh