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Connected Care: The Future (and Present) Age of Health Care

February 26, 2016 Posted in: Your Practice , Article

After a long week, you arrive home on Friday night excited for the weekend ahead, but maybe you're also feeling fatigued. The cumulative stress of caring for patients is catching up to you. Of course, as a trained physician, you know the cure: you drink a lot of water, eat a small dinner of veggies and lean proteins, and then go to bed. You wake up ready to take on the weekend.

With connected care, your patients can now share in the same conveniences.

The Telehealth Landscape

Connected care is real-time, electronic communication between a patient and a provider. This can include telehealth, remote patient monitoring, and secure email communication between clinicians and their patients. Telehealth allows patients to consult with their providers through a variety of electronic mediums. This serves to increase access, improve patient convenience, and prevent high-cost services to both patients and providers. By implementing telehealth, clinics will be one step ahead in caring for their patients. And they'll arguably be two steps ahead in acquiring new patients, considering that everyone far and wide desires such accessibility and efficiency.

There are endless organizations dedicated to helping providers implement telehealth in their clinics. At the forefront of this process is improving the technology that assists providers in interacting with their patients. According to the Center for Connected Health Policy, such technological advancements include live video for patient consultation, "store and forward technologies" that help transmit patient information between providers, and remote patient monitoring, which allows for continuous off-site collection of medical data.

In order to implement this model, however, enhancing technology alone will not suffice. In fact, per the Cooperative Telehealth Steering Committee, five of the seven steps of telehealth planning for program success are not directly related to technology enhancement: evaluation of needs, developing care services plans, developing a business plan, training personnel, and evaluating outcomes. While it may seem like a large undertaking to adopt and implement telehealth, realize that this is not only the way of the future, but also the way of the present.

On-Demand Care in Action

Doctor on Demand is one of the leaders in the connected care space. This online service offers video visits with board-certified primary-care physicians, who provide one-on-one care for low-acuity patients via a webcam-enabled computer, mobile device, or tablet. In recognition of these immense capabilities, and in order to expand access to the health services in its communities of service, Dignity Health has recently struck a collaborative partnership with Doctor on Demand. This enables the two to work together in providing on-demand services to the many patients (specifically, more than one in four) in Dignity Health's service areas who are unaffiliated with a primary-care provider or health system. This also allows greater convenience for demographics such as busy moms who frankly don't have the time to get to a doctor's office and millennials who prefer using mobile platforms and/or Web-based services to handle their personal affairs.

Launching in select U.S. cities in early 2016, this revolutionary service -- and the associated Dignity Health powered by Doctor on Demand app -- will appeal to convenience-oriented patients seeking health care for nonemergent health issues. Through the app, patients will be able to connect to the full-time, board-certified physicians who are employed by Doctor on Demand within two minutes. During the session, a physician will look, listen, diagnose, and provide a treatment plan (possibly including a prescription) -- all for $40. And because the average session is approximately 13 minutes in length, doctors can see a large volume of patients and realize the associated financial benefit.

As Bill Gates once said, "The first rule of any technology used in a business is that automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency. The second is that automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency." It is undeniable that the ceiling of efficiency for both doctors and patients is vastly higher with a connected care model. It is also plausible that cost-inefficient clinics and hospitals can optimize their efficiency through reduced operating costs and increased patient volumes -- two elements seen as the principal benefits of transitioning to a connected care model. So whether you are a small clinic or hospital looking for an edge, or an independent practitioner looking to optimize patient care, look no further than connected care.

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