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In a post-pandemic world, where quarantining and social distancing may no longer be the norm, the emerging hybrid model of patient care will empower access to care for all and the changes will likely accelerate into the years ahead. Healthcare systems using an omnichannel approach are adjusting the way they triage, evaluate, and care for patients using methods that do not rely on in-person services. While telehealth technology and its use are not new, widespread adoption by health consumers, providers, and payors during the pandemic have reduced the barriers to access and have promoted the use of virtual health services as a way to deliver acute, chronic, primary and specialty care.

The next chapter of healthcare delivery will not treat virtual health as a separate system, but as part of a broader omnichannel health care delivery model that balances virtual and in-person care. You can view our recent webinar, where virtual health leaders from Geisinger, and clinical leaders from Teladoc and Microsoft explored the challenges and opportunities care providers face in realizing this hybrid approach. The presentation will also dive into how the Teladoc Health Solo virtual care platform—now integrated with Microsoft Teams—enables connected experiences across physical and virtual points of care.

Improving patient outreach

Technology advances have already begun to reshape the way patients engage with their healthcare providers. An omnichannel approach to healthcare allows individuals to take control of their health and communicate with their providers on their own terms via email, text, web, chat, and mobile phone. For providers, once these capabilities are established, healthcare organizations should be able to identify unique member needs in the moments that matter, develop interventions tailored to each individual, and continuously optimize engagement through agile, digital capabilities.

Healthcare organizations are building and deploying artificial intelligence (AI)-powered, compliant, conversational healthcare experiences at scale to take over patient screening process and input data in real-time. This leads to an increase in support team productivity and allows them to direct their energy elsewhere. Providence, a healthcare systems with 51 hospitals and more than 1,085 clinics in the Western United States, has effectively utilized Azure Health Bot to triage patients and answer their questions specifically about COVID-19 symptoms, freeing providers to attend to the patients who needed it most. From answering questions to routing patients to the appropriate avenue of care or service, the technology provided an improved experience for patients and allowed Providence to dramatically increase capacity of the healthcare system. Providence also contributed a template to the Azure Health Bot gallery that other organizations can use to rapidly design and deploy Azure Health Bots to fight influenza. The scenario template for flu combines information from multiple sources with FAQs and directs users to a vaccine location finder.

Minimizing risk to healthcare workers and patients

Virtual visits are being used extensively in the “forward triage” of patients long before the need to arrive in primary care clinics and have become the lifeline providing routine care for patients with chronic diseases. By deploying virtual health solutions and programs, patients can receive care from home, without entering medical facilities, minimizing their risk of exposure or transmission to COVID-19 or other viruses.

The benefits to medical staff using telehealth solutions for non-urgent communication helps to reduce the pressures facing emergency rooms, clinics, and already overwhelmed waiting rooms. It can allow clinicians the opportunity to seamlessly transition between patients and clinical operations while freeing them of administrative tasks and maximizing their time spent with patients.

Walsall Healthcare National Health Service (NHS) Trust, part of the NHS in the United Kingdom provides local hospital and community services to about 300,000 people in the borough of Walsall and surrounding areas. When COVID-19 hit, the hospital’s emergency department was flooded by patients. It needed to continue providing other necessary care, but the Trust also had to keep employees healthy and safe. . But the Trust also had to keep employees healthy and safe. Their organization and ability to care for the population have remained intact through the use of Microsoft Teams for virtual health visits with patients, and the use of Microsoft Teams Rooms to run their entire command structure, engage with partners across wards, and look after the whole borough.

Increasing communication between clinicians, caregivers, and patients

Doctors, nurses, and caregivers cannot watch all patients at all times for health problems. However, with devices like Wi-Fi-enabled blood pressure and blood sugar monitors, and sensors that detect a fall, they can better monitor their patient’s health and wellbeing. As devices record vital statistics, the healthcare team gets a better idea of an individual’s health throughout the day and has early warning of impending health issues. With a virtual visit available, the nurse, personal support worker or caregiver can consult a doctor, or just check in remotely to ask the patient how they are feeling.

Remotely-monitoring patients not only helps care for more patients, but also provides a higher level of care. Nurses can focus on their most critical patients knowing they will receive an alert if there is a direct issue with the patient. Doctors and health workers see if a patient is following their prescribed care plan, taking action if needed. Nursing homes can reduce costly hospital visits and access a remote doctor. With an aging population and looming healthcare worker shortage, virtual health is an effective way to build resilience into the healthcare system.

Rx.Health is confronting the challenges of twenty-first century healthcare head on by finding ways for healthcare providers to use technology to provide visibility into a patient’s day-to-day life without interrupting it. While skilled medical professionals can’t be everywhere, apps can. Rx.Health created a collection of digital health solutions that make care navigation, patient monitoring, and engagement faster and more automated than ever before—and on a much greater scale across patient populations.

Adopting a composable, hybrid approach to care improves agility and enables the organization to pivot rapidly in response to changing health environments. By investing in omnichannel consumer support capabilities, health providers will soon be able to realize measurable value from next-generation patient engagement. With ready access to the right patient information, care teams will be empowered to leverage the right care setting, whether virtual or in-person, at the right time for each patient, without navigating many fragmented systems. Watch the webinar to gain more insights about the journey to omnichannel care delivery, from rethinking care delivery and administrative workflows, to building patient trust in quality of virtual care.