Undoubtedly, the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the adoption of virtual primary care. According to a recent study, published in February 2021, in Ontario, Canada alone face-to-face primary care visits have seen a dramatic 80% decline while virtual care visits have increased a whopping 5.6-fold.
Given this unprecedented uptake of virtual primary care, it is critical to evaluate if the promises of telemedicine do in fact deliver, and whether this adoption of virtual tools will transition itself into long-term healthcare delivery plans, once Covid 19 days are behind us.
Primary care is the central pillar of most healthcare systems around the world. It holds particular significance in the developed world, where primary health care visits are 30 times more frequent than any hospital admissions. The above CMAJ study found that 72% of the primary care physician visits between March and June, 2020 have been virtual. This trend is not just limited to Canada and the United States; the UK too has demonstrated similar findings, where the incidence of face-to-face general practitioner (GP) appointments was equal to telephone consultancies (10 million).
Virtual Tools for Primary Care
Currently, two main communication modalities are used to deliver virtual primary care:
1) Asynchronous: Secure Text and Email Messaging
2) Synchronous: Audio and Video
Given their specific functionalities, a 2020 Ontario pilot study of virtual care found that patients preferred secure messaging over audio/video options. This can be attributed to the fact that, while the audio/video option allows for better assessment of audio and visual cues, secure messaging offers both provider and patient the flexibility of responding to messages whenever and wherever they want.
Although patients prefer secure messaging, we need to evaluate the overall efficiency of primary virtual care in maintaining quality of care, improving healthcare access and reducing a patient’s burden of treatment.
Improving Healthcare Access
The above BMJ study found that only 37% of Canadians reported seeing their regular healthcare practitioner the very same day, demonstrating an undeniable lag in access. Therefore, virtual communication methods, especially text-based secure messaging, have allowed for timely fulfilment of requests for such aspects as medical prescriptions, follow-ups from previous appointments and test results.
YourDoctors.Online is one example of how physicians are eliminating barriers to healthcare access. The telemedicine app connects patients to physicians via 24/7 online chat; eliminating lags in healthcare access due to high medical costs, inability to get time off work and the potential exposure to infection.
Ensuring Patients Satisfaction
The above study also found that a vast majority (87%) of patients were satisfied with the quality of care in virtual visits, deeming them at par with in-person visits. It is also notable that while 12% found virtual visits to be better than their in-person experience, 99% also indicated that they would use virtual care again.
More interestingly, up to one-third of patients would like virtual care to be the first point of contact even after the pandemic. This phenomenally positive patient response stems from having the convenience to manage their time for medical appointments and reduced costs.
Another determinant of the quality of care is the incidence of follow-ups required. According to the study, 81% of virtual visits did not require any follow-up and only in 5.6% of virtual visit requests, physicians advised the patients to go for in-person visits. This indicates that primary care quality has been maintained, and not deteriorated in virtual settings.
Therefore, with widespread adoption and patient satisfaction, virtual primary care has definitely not disappointed. It might not replace in-person visits in the future, but it will definitely be employed as a supplementary tool by physicians and patients to improve access to care and reduce the patient’s burden of treatment.
As we see healthcare institutions making this transition and private companies jumping on the virtual care bandwagon, we at LocateMotion (SenSights.ai) pride ourselves at being the pioneers in the field of virtual primary care.
What is LocateMotion (SenSights.ai)?
SenSights.AI, developed by LocateMotion, is an easy-to-use digital health intelligence platform that offers 24/7 remote monitoring, personal emergency interventions and data collection. LocateMotion (SenSights.ai) further offers telehealth services that help home health, skilled nursing, long term entities increase their capacity in a private and secure manner. This helps reduce hospital visits and readmission rates and mitigate the risk of wandering and fall episodes by offering proactive monitoring and risk profiles along with smart alerts.
Our unique one stop platform has a proven track record of ensuring patient satisfaction, cutting readmission rates, and providing a secure Return on Investment (ROI).
Book a demo today to learn more about LocateMotion(SenSights.ai) and how our smart monitoring solutions can work for you at sensights.ai/demoFollow us on LinkedIn at @LocateMotion@YourDoctors.Online for more updates.
Contributor: Mariam Javed.