Why Telehealth Is Failing

During the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, millions of patients were introduced to telehealth, as it was often their only option if they wanted to see a healthcare provider.

According to a report by Trillian Health, telehealth volume peaked with 76.6 million visits — or more than a quarter of all outpatient visits in the US — in the second quarter of 2020. But while telehealth volume remains far higher than it was before the pandemic, visits have dropped by nearly half since the peak.

While telehealth visits for behavioral health have remained strong since the pandemic — often, it should be noted, because telehealth is the only option for many patients seeking mental health services — telehealth visits outside of behavioral health have not kept pace.

Per the Trillian report, nearly half of all patients (49 percent) who have used telehealth have only done it once, and nearly a third (29 percent) of all telehealth appointments led to an in-person appointment in three weeks for the same reason. According to Sanjula Jain, chief research officer of Trilliant Health, those numbers are telling, as she says some patients may have found the experience unsatisfying or thought they would end up needing an in-person appointment anyway.

Other studies support that point of view. A recent Morning Consult poll, for example, showed that only 6 percent of US adult patients prefer telehealth, while 35 percent prefer a hybrid healthcare model that includes both in-person and virtual care.


Driving the Decline

Jain’s thoughts represent just a couple of the explanations that have echoed across the healthcare industry regarding the drop-off in telehealth utilization.

For starters, telehealth can be pricey. Since many insurance companies don’t cover telehealth visits at the same rate as in-person visits, the higher costs can make the visits less attractive to patients. That financial burden can extend to providers, as well, as some who use telemedicine platforms do not receive reimbursement for their services.

Also, some medical specialties — like surgical consultations or interventions — require physical exams, procedures, or diagnostic tests that simply cannot be adequately performed through telehealth.

In addition, some patients have limited access to the necessary technology, such as smartphones, tablets, or reliable internet connections. This can result in a digital divide, where certain populations are excluded from telehealth services — even if they might be interested in using them.

Ultimately, however, the aforementioned lack of in-person connection between providers and patients is likely the biggest reason why patients are rejecting telehealth.

But while this lack of personal touch can impact the doctor-patient relationship and the overall patient experience, the traditional healthcare system that patients prefer can compromise patient care in other ways.

What’s needed to provide optimal care is a blend of traditional and virtual care.

We call it “Coactive Care.”


Closing the Care Gap

Under the current ambulatory care delivery model, physicians and other healthcare professionals spend more time assessing and monitoring patients than they do supporting patients’ actions and behaviors that positively affect their health — arguably the most important aspect of patient care.

While patients are given self-care instructions as the last step before they leave the hospital or their doctor’s office, current care models leave a large gap in supporting their ongoing care, behavior change, and outcome reinforcement after they walk out the doors.

Coactive Care anchored by Hippo Virtual CareTM — an augmented reality platform purpose-built for clinicians — can close that gap.

The term “Coactive Care” refers to a collaborative care model involving the active participation of multiple healthcare providers and patients. Professionals from different disciplines, including caregivers and family, form a “circle of care” to work together delivering comprehensive care for patients.

By providing care to patients — and, more importantly, helping patients provide their own self-care — wherever they are, Coactive Care improves point-of-care decision-making by providing immediate remote support and including the care circle in patients’ care plans, goals, activities, and outcomes. Strong caregiver relationships and in-person support encourage patient commitment and adherence.

The addition of a new Clinician ExtenderTM role providing expert in-person guidance, education and support to the patient — aided by remote specialists via the Hippo Virtual Care platform — brings the Coactive Care team full circle to support patients wherever they are outside doctor’s offices and hospital walls.

The Hippo Virtual Care platform enables true remote collaboration and team-based learning by leveraging Assisted Reality (AR) headsets. Hippo provides the latest in voice-activated, hands-free, remote collaboration and data capture technology with the world’s most advanced wearable computer platform, providing a “you are there” virtual experience for remote experts who can now conduct remote patient examinations as if they were physically in the room, unlike conventional telehealth.

Remote experts require a transparent “I see what you see” technology as they work closely with their Clinician Extenders on the ground with the patient to assess, diagnose, guide, and reinforce patient care. Clinician Extenders need a non-obtrusive technology that allows them to work naturally in a hands-free way that does not distract them from their primary focus on the patient.

Hippo’s platform meets the Coactive Care needs of both remote experts and Clinician Extenders, providing the support and confidence they need to comfortably share information, make decisions, and guide patient evaluations and treatment efficiently.

Learn more about how Coactive Care can help you achieve optimum outcomes for your patients. Download white paper

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