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COVID-19 lays the groundwork for the virtual-first care model

Health systems have readily adopted virtual care technologies to address the intensive needs of serving  COVID-19 patients. Virtual care mitigates the spread of COVID-19 in hospitals and allows patients to continue to receive care when possible without visiting a hospital or physician clinic, and through expanded telehealth options. Amwell Automated Care Programs  relieve front-line physicians and nurses from repetitive tasks that drive burnout, such as delivering test results, monitoring patients in quarantine, and checking symptoms for worried patients. 

The rapid adoption of virtual care has accelerated the acceptance of these solutions by both patients and physicians:  

  • In a survey of 8,000 American patients, 51 percent reported having used video telehealth in 2021, and 72 percent reported being as satisfied (29 percent) or more satisfied (43 percent) with a live video call compared with in-person care.  

  • A review of 37 studies of physician preferences for telehealth and teleconsultations found that physicians were satisfied with these arrangements 89 percent of the time. 

  • In another survey, 149 physicians using telehealth in 2020 think they could deliver 45 percent of care through telehealth. 

These experiences offer lessons for health systems considering a wider digital transformation. Having used virtual care to replicate in-person care, patients and physicians are primed to consider virtual care solutions that provide levels of connectedness and vigilance well beyond what any model that relies solely on humans can achieve.  

A hybrid model is emerging that blends in-person, virtual, and automated care. Fifty-six percent of senior hospital leaders said their health systems plan to increase investment in telehealth and virtual care within two years, Amwell and HIMSS Analytics found in a 2021 survey. Amwell added Automated Care Programs to its hybrid virtual care model to enhance connectedness with patients while automating repetitive tasks to lessen the load on physicians, nurses, and other hospital and clinic staff. 

Listening more to patients 

Prisma Health, the largest health system in South Carolina, is building on its work with Amwell to expand care capacity for COVID. Prisma has made Amwell Automated Care Programs a key part of its chronic care management for conditions such as diabetes, heart failure, COPD, obesity, and asthma as well as more generally in women’s health and pediatrics. 

“Amwell Automated Care Programs allow us to listen more to our patients, as they provide self-reported data on their conditions through the clinically intelligent chats,” said Dr. Nick Patel, chief digital officer at Prisma Health. “Receiving more information about patients, and more often, we can better guide them to the care they need. At the same time, our patients and care teams build more connected relationships that keep patients on track for improved health and wellness.” 

Intervening sooner with chronically ill patients 

UCSF Health in San Francisco shows the possibilities of making pandemic-driven virtual care options a new, improved normal. UCSF Health faced an immediate problem with the start of stay-at-home orders: How to monitor lung transplant patients. These patients are especially vulnerable as transplant patients are immunocompromised. 

The Center for Digital Health Innovation at UCSF developed a home monitoring program for lung transplant patients. The program pairs home spirometry devices that measure lung function with an Amwell chat program that collects patient-reported data, providing immediate feedback to patients on what the numbers mean and alerts clinicians when these data signal potential problems. 

“Over time, we have expanded monitoring capabilities to help patientsunderstand and track other health metrics that our lung transplant team identifies as important for optimal transplant outcomes, including medication adherence, lab monitoring, exercise, and nutrition,” said Aaron Barak Neinstein, MD, vice president of digital health at UCSF. “Incorporating the Amwell platform into our care models enables us to stay in closer touch with patients and intervene sooner.” 

University Hospitals (UH) in northeast Ohio incorporates Amwell Automated Care Programs into managing chronically ill patients in its Accountable Care Organization that serves 582,000 patients. In the January/February 2022 edition of Professional Case Management, UH researchers published two case reviews of their care management team’s use of Amwell Automated Care Programs. In both cases, the patients had recently been discharged from one of its hospitals with a chronic condition and were at risk of being readmitted. The article highlights that the Amwell platform provided additional touchpoints for patients needing care management and those missing calls from care managers as well ashandled routine collection of patient-reported data and condition updates. 

“As shown by these examples from some of the most innovative health systems in America, Amwell offers a robust, flexible platform that offers health systems the breadth of clinical programs and the scale they need to integrate automation into their care delivery models to improve access, experience, and outcomes for their patients,” said Murray Brozinsky, chief strategy officer at Amwell. “Our program library spans use cases from chronic conditions, pre- and post-procedure, and post-acute care to ongoing patient education and wellness, women’s health, pediatrics, and much more.”