Despite all the progress we hear about technology advancements and the emergence of new digital health care models, it’s still not “common” to service delivery. There is still a lack of acceptance of telehealth services—44% of hospital don’t offer telehealth services, only 5% of Medicare psychiatrists do, and less than seven consumers out of every 1,000 had a telemedicine visit in 2017 (see 4 Market Realities Hindering A Telehealth Future). Seventy-seven percent of consumers have never tried a virtual health care visit (see Consumers are on board with virtual health options Can the health care system deliver?) and only 20% of consumers seek out virtual care for mental health or addiction treatment needs (see Accenture 2019 Digital Health Consumer Survey).
But there is some movement in the market. The signs show that health systems and health care provider organizations need to prepare for a market where hybrid models of service delivery—ones that can leverage virtual care to the fullest—is the future. Want some proof that this is already coming to pass? Over half of U.S. hospitals have a telehealth program, 48 states require health plans to cover telehealth, and 90% of health care executives are either developing or have already developed telehealth service lines (see Just The Facts: 30 Telehealth Statistics For Doctors To Know). And recent surveys are showing a shift among consumers: about 46% of consumers were active digital health adopters (as defined by having used three or more tools, including telehealth) over the previous 12 months (see What Does The Current State Of Digital Health Adoption Tell Us About Its Future In Healthcare?); 87% of consumers have adopted at least one digital health tool, including a 19% increase in the use of live video (see Survey: 87 Percent of Consumers Have Adopted One Digital Health Tool). And, the annual telehealth visit volume increased 261% from 2015 to 2017—including a 53% growth rate for telemental health (see Health Plan Telemedicine Visit Volume Increased 52% Per Year Between 2005 & 2017).
The importance of digital health adoption to the sustainability of health and human service organizations is going to grow as the market shifts towards more value-based reimbursement models (VBR). Executive teams need a strategy for building a technology infrastructure that can drive value by reducing service delivery costs, engaging consumers in their care management, and enabling value-based contracting and population health management using data analytics.
What does this technology infrastructure look like? OPEN MINDS categorizes technology into different functional groups, each of which plays a key role in building a tech-enabled strategy:
On a parallel path, in April the World Health Organization (WHO) released recommendations on how to use digital health technology to improve health care services. Of their recommendations, these are six technologies that I think provider organization executives should consider in their next strategic technology plan:
Client-to-provider telehealth to complement, rather than replace, the delivery of health services and in settings where consumer safety, privacy, traceability, accountability and security can be monitored.
Provider-to-provider telehealth in settings where consumer safety, privacy, traceability, accountability and security can be monitored.
Targeted client communication via mobile devices for health issues regarding sexual, reproductive, maternal, newborn, and child health under the condition that potential concerns about sensitive content and data privacy can be addressed.
Health worker decision support via mobile devices for community and facility-based health workers in the context of tasks that are already defined within the scope of practice for the health worker.
Digital tracking of clients’ health status and services, combined with decision support in settings where the health system can support the implementation of these intervention components in an integrated manner, and for tasks that are already defined as within the scope of practice for the health worker.
Digital tracking combined with decision support and targeted client communication where the health system can support the implementation of these intervention components in an integrated manner, for tasks that are already defined as within the scope of practice for the health worker, and where potential concerns about data privacy and transmitting sensitive content to clients can be addressed.
As when investing in any new technologies, it is critical to use best practice methodologies for determining the functionality, integration, and implementation to ensure a return on investment (see Tech Best Practice: Planning, Budgeting & Change Management). For more thoughts on just how critical technology is to every aspect of an organization check out these resources in The OPEN MINDS Circle Library:
- Digital Transformations Demand Digital Dexterity
- The Three Trends That Are ‘Top Of Mind’ In 2019 For The OPEN MINDS Team
- Your Digital Tech Integration Checklist
- When New Contracts Mean New Technology: 4 Things To Remember
- ‘Productizing’ Services For Competitive Success
- Thinking About Partnering With A Tech Start-Up?
- Failure To Launch
- Moving Out Of Your Comfort Zone: The VBR Technology Continuum
- Are You Strategically Interoperable?
- Using Virtual Care To Improve Your Value Proposition: Best Practices In Integrating Technology Into Your Community-Based Program
For more, mark your calendar for August 14 and The 2019 OPEN MINDS Management Best Practices Institute where OPEN MINDS Senior Associate Ken Carr will moderate the session, Best Practices In The Shift To Virtual Health: How To Integrate Digital Treatment Tools Into Programs & Treatment Models” featuring David Heffron, Vice President, Operations, Telecare Corporation; and Sandra Stein, M.D., Medical Director of Care Integration, Banner University Health Plans.
And for even more, join Samir Malik, Executive Vice President and General Manager of Telepsychiatry at Genoa Healthcare on June 11 at 1 p.m. (EST) when he will discuss the transformative potential of telepsychiatry for underserved populations in the webinar Telepsychiatry’s Potential To Close The Access Gap In Behavioral Health Care.