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Can ‘Virtual’ Care Help to Support Rising Patient Volume?

Created Dec 20 2018, 10:25 AM by Lippincott Solutions
  • nursing technology
  • aging
  • patient care

Population growth and aging continue to be the primary driver of increasing demand for healthcare services. The U.S. population aged 65 and older is estimated to increase by 50% in the next 25 years, while growth for the 18 and younger age segment is forecasted at only 3%. Because seniors have much higher per capita consumption of healthcare than younger segments, the demand for services used by seniors will far outpace others. 

Given the expected demand from this demographic shift, the healthcare industry will face growing staffing challenges amidst nursing shortages. Technology is the driving force changing the way we do everything, and it’s leading to a large movement toward virtual nursing, otherwise known as telecommute nursing.

Virtual care platforms can address care gaps by allowing providers, care managers, and visiting nurses the ability and flexibility to treat more patients virtually. With virtual care platforms, healthcare organizations can meet the heightened demand for access to care by increasing staff proAductivity and optimizing workflows, while minimizing costs for all stakeholders.

Increasing Productivity

Virtual care platforms can help administrators optimize the available staff around patient needs. Instead of needing to hire additional team members (or outsource some of the care responsibilities to other healthcare delivery organizations), administrators can use data to review when patients are more likely to seek out care and then match nurse scheduling around patients’ preferred timing for virtual visits.

If necessary, staff can also be augmented by remote team members to address an anticipated shortage of providers. For example, many facilities struggle with being able to provide behavioral health resources on-hand all the time. Virtual care platforms can allow remote behavioral health nurse specialists to efficiently provide needed diagnoses and admission/transfer decisions to their onsite colleagues.

Optimal Workflows

Virtual care platforms can be designed to automate existing workflows and can be readily applied across roles, settings, and facilities. This ensures that the use of the technology is complementary, not disruptive, to how nurses currently interact with their colleagues and engage with their patients.

Greater collaboration will stem from providers being able to more easily access remote specialists for a video consult. The transition of care – including transfers between departments, floors, providers and settings – should be streamlined as all stakeholders (including the patient and family members) are included in the video-based call to align on expectations and next steps.

Minimizing Excess Costs

Technology enables healthcare organizations to leverage staff to care for more patients, around-the-clock. While you can’t take someone’s blood pressure or treat a wound over the phone or via email, there is a huge need for medical services that can be provided through such mediums. Telephone triage nurses usually work for a physician’s office or healthcare facility. For example, Kaiser Permanente has a service called KP OnCall that provides 24/7 integrated programs in remote care management to providers, payers, and employers.

The virtual nurse's duties don’t include diagnosing or treating an illness or injury, but rather deciphering the severity of a caller’s complaint, directing him or her to the correct emergency services if necessary, and recommending further medical follow-up. The final outcome depends on the triage nurse’s interactions with patients and what his or her medical expertise tells them to do.

Instead of expending travel time to physically reach at-home patients for an in-person visit, virtual nurses can convert “drive time” to “patient time” and effectively see more patients, more often. Virtual care platforms can fill expected workforce gaps by allowing a nurse the ability to treat three patients virtually in the time it takes for one at-home visit, for example.

In addition, transportation costs and related liabilities associated with driving to and from patient homes and conducting in-person appointments are effectively reduced.

Evolving to Meet Demand

Healthcare organizations need to evolve their business models in order meet the increased demand for access to care. This does not mean on-site staffing will decrease, but expanding the number and type of certain staffing resources would not be needed.

Implementing a virtual care platform can help organizations better utilize their current staff while being able to provide higher quality and more timely care to the community they serve.

With a nationwide nursing shortage and an increasing desire by aging baby boomers for a way to get the medical advice and support they require remotely — either via phone, email, chat, or video conferencing — virtual nursing is a field with a bright future.

Have you thought about a career in virtual nursing?

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