How healthcare providers can glean more from virtual health 

By | 3 minute read | June 25, 2020

Virtual health is more than just delivering care using video conferencing tools or virtual care platforms. Yes, seeing patients remotely to reduce the risk of exposure between healthcare providers, patients, and staff – especially during the COVID-19 pandemic – is an important component of virtual health. However, other connected health technologies can enable virtual health and empower healthcare providers to think about how care might be delivered in new and exciting ways.

Leveraging the full potential of the patient data generated by connected health technology will require healthcare organizations to invest in underlying technologies such as cloud, big data and analytics, interoperability, and connectivity to aggregate, analyze, and store structured and unstructured data. The use of AI, including machine learning (ML) and natural language processing (NLP), will play an increasingly important role in assisting clinicians and data scientists in gleaning clinical insights from vast volume data sets and creating dashboards to alert clinicians to critical findings.

Let’s examine the day in the life of a patient to illustrate the promise of virtual health. Laura has diabetes that she is controlling through diet and exercise. She is a typical member of the “sandwich generation”, managing not only her own health but that of her family.

  • 6:00 am: Laura wakes up and uses her connected glucometer to test her blood glucose level, which recorded into a companion mobile app and sent to her endocrinologist.
  • 8:00 am: She goes for a run, monitoring her heart rate, number of miles run, and hills climbed using a smartwatch application. The app includes gamification techniques such as badges and rewards to keep Laura engaged in her exercise routine.
  • 12:00 pm: Laura uses a mobile health app to check the carbs in her lunch. She also takes a photo to keep a food diary to share with her nutritionist.
  • 4:00 pm: As she picks up her blood pressure prescription the pharmacy, she stops at a kiosk to check her blood pressure.
  • 7:30 pm: Laura’s child complains of a recurring earache. It doesn’t warrant a trip to the emergency room and she doesn’t want to take him to urgent care because of COVID-19. After a quick tap on her smartphone, she schedules a virtual visit with the on-call pediatrician, who prescribes an antibiotic for recurring ear infections.
  • 11:00 pm: Before Laura and her partner turn in for the night, a smart pill box reminds her partner to take their medications.

In the above example, smart devices enable Laura to manage her and her family’s health better. After all, as the well-known adage goes, “You can’t manage what you don’t measure.” The devices also stream data – with Laura’s consent — to her healthcare providers so that they can glean important clinical insights and help Laura better manage her care. According IDC Health Insights’ Connected Health and Value-based IT Investment Plans Survey (February 2019), 60% of providers and 60% payers indicated using patient-generated data collected in real time, or near real time, for clinical interventions from alerts generated by FDA-cleared remote health monitoring devices. Increasingly, healthcare organizations are encouraging their patients and members to use wearables and remote health monitoring devices to measure their vitals and biometrics to manage patients under risk- and value-based contracts. Value-based initiatives to control costs and improve patient outcomes are at the heart of why healthcare provider organizations are providing connected remote health monitoring solutions to their patients today.

Virtual health should embody the best of the in-person experience while removing friction from typical in-person encounters where healthcare providers have access to all the information they need to care for their patients without asking them to repeat what they told them in past visits or reported to other healthcare professionals. Combining greater access to patient-generated information anytime, anywhere, with the capabilities to conduct virtual visits – also anytime, anywhere – can enable healthcare providers to more fully realize the promise of this now preferred mode of care delivery.

 Message from the Sponsor

Healthcare provider solutions from Watson Health leverage rich data, advanced analytics and AI to inform strategic planning and operations, accelerate delivery of evidence-based insights to the point of care and automate population outreach. New services are available to support the delivery of virtual care.

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