What Will 2022 Bring for Virtual Care?

First, A Look Back at 2021


In early 2021 I put down my thoughts on what Virtual Care would look like. Let’s recap before jumping into 2022. 


COVID, Still Front and Center


“While the U.S. is currently distributing three different vaccines, the rollout has been frustratingly slow. Although the new administration has pledged to speed up the process, slow distribution is still a widespread threat. Emerging variants of this infectious disease are beginning to crop up around the globe. The need for virtual care and telehealth will continue to be in high demand.”


Unfortunately, this could not have proved truer.  Who would have thought we would be getting through a fourth surge Omicron over a year later?  The good news is, I think we may be finally cresting the wave and moving into an endemic phase.  


Emerging Markets


“While telehealth and virtual care gained a respectable foothold in acute-based patient care, we are now seeing an expansion into other caregiver markets, such as mental health, physical therapy, and the administration of pharmaceutical refills (ex. ePrescribing).”


This shift is also in full effect.  Even as telehealth has gone mainstream, behavioral health is still among the top uses for telehealth services.  Similar to Remote Physiologic Monitoring (RPM) codes, CMS has added Remote Therapeutic Monitoring (RTM) codes enabling new provider reimbursement for musculoskeletal and respiratory system monitoring, as well as many other physical, mental, and medication therapy adherence and response programs, signaling that remote care access and expansion is working.


2021 Could Be the Year of Patient-Centered Healthcare


 “Many larger systems are starting down the path of patient-centered care and the consumerization of healthcare; successive waves of Covid derailed many good intentions and delayed initiatives.”


I think I was overly optimistic and quite a bit early on this one. We are still far from actual patient-controlled health care.   This will be aspirational until more vendors and systems open and allow seamless data sharing.  


Now, a Look at 2022


The year of the Comprehensive Virtual Care Platform or Full Stack Solution


As virtual care has gone from pilot phase to full-fledged standard of care, larger and more mature systems have seen the need to migrate from multiple point solutions to a unified comprehensive platform for data collection, monitoring, communication, decision support, and intervention.  


This Comprehensive Virtual Care Platform is open and API-based, labels, classifies, contextualizes, and makes patient data actionable, all without forcing clinicians to change their workflows.   


The platform must support robust patient engagement and education tools. Peer and familial connections are critical to improved patient outcomes. They provide a support system for patients, relieve the fears of self-care, and provide health literacy support.


The platform must support comprehensive views of patient health and wellness. To treat chronically ill patients, a holistic view of physiological and self-reported health data is key to developing a personalized care plan.


With this new stream of real-time data, it is essential that you have a scalable architecture designed from the ground up to support AI and machine learning. You must build a proper foundation and data structure to support sophisticated machine learning and AI to create meaningful insights and longitudinal analysis.  The system itself needs inherent ML and AI capabilities. Still, it should be designed to allow systems and payors to bring their ML and analytics models to bear, seamlessly leveraging what has already been built by the in-house experts at the larger institutions.


The right technology is only part of the equation.  You need to marry this open platform and actionable data with clinical support.  Our frontline healthcare workers have gone above and beyond for many years.  The right solution also brings targeted clinical support to help fill in the gaps needed to augment the excellent care they are already delivering and to help extend their reach as our population ages and staffing shortages become more acute.  The right Virtual Care solution brings tech-enabled care services to the table as a standard offer.  


To complete the solution a front-end analytics tool is required to help direct patients to the correct care modality, as fast as possible, with as little inconvenience to the patient and burden on the clinician. Asynchronous technologies like digital diagnostic tools from Bright.Md can drive down the administrative time and free up clinicians’ time to spend with patients.  


By Ernie Ianace, EVP Sales and Marketing of VitalTech

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