The facility-based model of healthcare—a rock-solid standard for decades—may finally be showing some cracks. Over the past several years, even before the pandemic began, health systems have been leveraging new technologies and workflows to extend care delivery outside the hospital setting. Regulatory flexibility also paved the way for hospital at home, virtual front door, and other innovations that make care more accessible.
During Becker’s Hospital Review’s 12th Annual Meeting in April 2022, I joined an exclusive roundtable with 20 national healthcare leaders. We discussed drivers and barriers to care-delivery evolution. Below are the key insights that emerged:
1. Transforming medicine means returning to its roots.
Patient-centric care has become a popular buzzword, but what does it really mean? In a system that still expects patients to travel to doctors, virtual care models are strongly reminiscent of house calls of old. Thankfully, clinicians aren’t running around town with their black bag; technology gives us this amazing window into patients’ homes and families that has been lacking for decades.
2. Alternative care models can help providers work more effectively.
Over the years, administrative creep has added exponential work to clinicians’ days. Now the current workforce shortage is forcing a reexamination of roles and responsibilities. Historically, we’ve heaped too many new processes onto highly paid individuals. One way to course-correct is to shift to team-based care models. This also means ensuring everyone on the team practices at the top of their licenses.
3. Virtual care can improve both the patient and clinician experiences.
A common objection to virtual care is that it will feel impersonal. However, in our experience across hundreds of practice locations, once they get used to the technology, both clinicians and patients find virtual care very satisfying. Clinicians are able to assess the patient’s environment, which really helps them address the root causes of chronic conditions. And the patients are amazed to be getting care without leaving the house. It becomes gratifying at a whole new level that we never imagined.
4. As the public health emergency winds down, we must advocate to preserve regulatory flexibilities.
Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has stated intentions to “expand or make permanent” its pandemic-era virtual care flexibilities. At Vituity, we firmly believe that it’s our job as healthcare leaders to hold them to their word.
Health systems are currently shouldering a great deal of risk when it comes to moving costs and access in the right direction. We need to advocate not only for regulatory flexibilities but also for changes in reimbursement. That’s what will really drive adoption of these patient-centric models.
5. When it comes to preventing care fragmentation, partnership and collaborations are key.
In a world where corporations, retail clinics, payers, and high-tech firms are each carving off bits of the telehealth market, there’s justifiable worries about extending rather than resolving the fragmented health system we’ve operated within. While nontraditional healthcare companies have challenged and disrupted our industry for the better, there’s the risk of further fragmentation. It’s critical that physicians and health systems partner with them in ways that are mutually advantageous and promote integration, coordination, and continuity of care.
Referencing earlier points, alternative care models not only improve efficiency, patient outcomes, and provider experience but also can improve care coordination and resolving fragmentation under the right partnerships. Ultimately, it should always be about achieving patient-centric care.