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Using Telemedicine When it Makes Sense

Adam Ang

October 11, 2022

Patients worldwide prefer a mix of in-person and virtual care moving forward from the pandemic.

During the pandemic, organisations across private and public healthcare systems have been rethinking their care delivery models.

This is one of the major trends Ronald L. Emerson, Global Healthcare Lead at Zoom, shared virtually in the keynote session, "The Rise of Digital First and Decentralized Healthcare," at the HIMSS22 APAC conference. He was joined by Benjamin Lim, Zoom's APAC Leader for ISV Platform Business, who moderated the discussion in person.

Recently commissioned research by Zoom found that patients who have used telehealth once prefer a hybrid mode of care post-COVID-19.

This has given rise to digital-first healthcare, which does not mean "digital only."

"What it does mean is that many healthcare systems, public and private, are developing virtual care models or hybrid models of care," Emerson said.

"They thought to let the interaction or the clinical situation dictate the level of care that is needed… If they can handle [visits] over telemedicine and take care of the patient, the patient doesn't need more expensive care. They don't have to come to the emergency room or the hospital or the physician's office. And so we're seeing a large shift in that area and it's decreasing the entry point into the healthcare system," he noted.

Rather than an all-digital model of care, a care model that makes sense to a patient's situation is ideal to bridge the gap in healthcare access.

"I think our goal with telemedicine is how we utilise it when it makes sense. I am not for an all-digital care model, an all-video model, an all-virtual care model; I'm all for a model that makes sense based on the actual clinical application that can lower the threshold and increase access when people need the care [so] then we can make a better decision on the clinical disposition of the patient," Emerson shared.

Telemedicine adoption

Another key trend is the rise of video-assisted virtual visits during the pandemic. Care providers are now getting their money's worth in using cost-efficient virtual care technologies.

In taking on a vendor's telemedicine platform, care providers usually consider the following: patient acceptability, clinical efficacy, and cost and sustainability.

"We're actually seeing the return on investment and sustainability of the project. Vendors and organizations like Zoom have really lowered the price point where these projects are sustainable," Emerson said.

Zoom has found its success in integrating as few workflows as possible in an organisation's existing centralised platform. "Healthcare professionals do not want any more platforms to manage. They wanna use their sort of centralized platform if they have electronic medical records," he mentioned.

Decentralised healthcare

Finally, Emerson noted how organisations are making efforts to reach out to patients across the continuum of care and work to provide the same levels of care they would receive in an in-hospital setting.

This trend of decentralised healthcare is happening, he claimed, because health systems now are not just focusing on sickness but also on the ability to keep people healthy through wellness and prevention, education, and better discharge planning – all of which require virtual technology and communication.

"We expect to see more and more of this [in] other places," he quipped.

Virtual health as a strategic goal

For organisations looking to develop their own digitally-enabled care delivery models, Emerson shared that the way to success is by making virtual health a strategic goal in their care provision.

"That means the doctors are on board, it's written in their job descriptions. [It's going to be a] part of the delivery system of how we take care of people," he said.

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