Building patient trust and establishing care in the age of telemedicine
Over the past year, the Covid-19 pandemic has rapidly accelerated patient and provider adoption of virtual care visits. With coronavirus raging across the globe and over half of American adults working from home, it’s often both easier and safer for patients to interact with their providers via a virtual visit.
While some types of healthcare problems can easily be addressed through at-home care, like diagnosing strep throat or the flu, other types of visits are harder to replicate in a virtual environment. Some types of visits—like immunotherapy, dialysis, and other treatments—clearly require in-person visits. However, annual wellness visits and diagnoses/triage visits that require a physical exam component inhabit a grey area—visits could be conducted virtually or in-person. Currently, patients and providers alike express apprehension about conducting annual wellness visits and physical exams in a virtual environment.
In a PK survey to healthcare professionals, providers discussed challenges associated with telemedicine. 67% expressed concern about struggling to establish strong patient trust in a virtual environment. Providers discussed the potential downstream effects of not establishing a strong rapport with patients, including miscommunication, a lack of patient understanding, and, as a result—poorer patient health outcomes.
Additionally, patients and providers face logistical challenges around replicating an in-person physical exam in a virtual environment. Confronted with physical distance, providers are, obviously, unable to perform a physical exam virtually as they would in-office. Patients’ lack of high-quality video further compromises providers’ ability to assess conditions.
In a PK survey fielded to Americans who have experienced a virtual visit, patients echoed providers’ concerns around establishing rapport and emulating an in-office physical exam virtually. When considering future-state healthcare, patients articulated a desire to integrate biometric devices—including those they already own (like a smartwatch) and those an office could potentially lend them (such as a blood pressure monitor or smart scale) to fill in data gaps caused by virtual visits.
Biometric devices can capture patient data both episodically—like 24 hours prior to the visit—or continuously, in the way that a smartwatch might constantly measure heart rate. While continuous data capture is optimal to provide a comprehensive picture of patient health, episodic data can functionally emulate what providers might capture themselves during an in-person visit.
Remote patient monitoring (RPM) via biometric devices existed well before the pandemic transformed our nation’s healthcare system. Initially used as diagnostic tools, evidence has proven that remote patient monitoring can reduce hospital readmissions and increase patient health outcomes—especially for those managing chronic conditions. As the pandemic has accelerated patient adoption of RPM devices, the healthcare industry is rapidly approaching an inflection point around what the future of patient care will look like in a virtual setting.
Leveraging data to improve patient care outcomes
It seems likely that successful integration of RPM devices with patient health records will be an important facet of improving quality of care and increasing patient trust during virtual visits. Furthermore, RPM devices and continuous data monitoring have the potential to radically transform what a patient’s healthcare profile might include. With increased patient data points—and potentially access to aggregated patient datasets—healthcare providers in the future will be better positioned to provide insights-driven health recommendations and improve patient trust.
About the authors
Claire Baron serves as a consultant in PK’s Strategy CoE. She has worked with a wide variety of clients including Skechers, ServiceNow, Microsoft, and the Endowment for Equal Justice. With a background in the public sector, she is passionate about helping organizations create experiences that promote value for society.
James is a Principal at PK and leads the Experience Design CoE. He brings more than two decades of experience helping brands understand and navigate the complexities of the digital and non-digital world to engage with users and achieve business success. James has extensive experience leading user-centered experience design and digital strategy engagements across retail, automotive, technology, and education. His work includes award-winning and business-shifting experience design work for both B2C and B2B brands, including DSW, Nike, Macys, Calphalon, Seventh Generation, Subaru, Toyota, Jeep, Union Pacific, Microsoft, T-Mobile, Jack Links, TopGolf and Vans.Tags: Telehealth