Why “Doctor of the Day” Telehealth Isn’t the Answer
Telemedicine is gaining momentum faster than ever, and for good reason. The benefits to patients, providers, facilities, and insurance companies are extensive. Patients enjoy being able to stay in their homes and avoid travel, they don’t have to miss work for trips to the doctor’s office, the cost of a telehealth appointment is significantly less than a traditional visit, and telehealth appointments are much more convenient. Patients also report much more personalized attention during these one-on-one virtual visits.
Providers benefit by being able to serve more patients, and they can more easily reach rural patients and those with mobility issues. They also take advantage of quicker access to specialists for consults, and those who circuit ride can use hours formerly spent traveling as hours spent seeing patients virtually instead. Insurance companies benefit by patients being able to receive care sooner and quicker, possibly avoiding the escalation of a more costly illness or complication.
The Critical Need for Continuity of Care
While these are just a few of the many benefits of telehealth, in order for virtual care to be most valuable and effective, there must be continuity of care present. The continuity of care approach is in stark contrast to what many larger DTC (Direct to Consumer) providers currently offer. Patients who use many of these services are given a random doctor – whoever is available. This random doctor likely is one who has never seen, met, or ever spoken to the patient. Not only can this make a patient uneasy, uncomfortable, and frustrated, but it also presents several other issues as well.
The Problem with “Doctor of the Day” Telehealth
Initially, at the dawn of telehealth, these larger DTC companies were successful because insurers would broker deals with telemedicine vendors, who would give members access to 24/7 virtual care with whatever provider may be available at the time. Back then, this was acceptable because there was no alternative. Seeing any doctor was better than seeing none at all – it was a new convenience for patients to take advantage of.
This “new benefit” was popular with many employer-based services. After some time, people began to realize the biggest problem with these payer-based random doctor assignments: frequent breakdowns in communication between the telehealth doctors and a patient’s regular doctor. Oftentimes, a patient’s main provider would not be advised about a telehealth visit that one of their patients had, and this break in the communication loop can be a devastating hurdle to providing effective, comprehensive care.
However, in the past few years, hospitals, providers, and health systems have realized that patients need to receive virtual care from the same doctor they normally see. Seeing the “doctor of the day” was no longer good enough. Providers also wanted to be able to connect their local brand and their services back to their patients virtually. While some companies continue with the “Doctor of the Day” model, others who are ahead of the game rely on companies with solutions that virtually provide patients’ main providers for them.
Telehealth Partnering for Comprehensive Care
These providers become partners with companies who deliver innovative solutions for continual care. These companies, like InTouch Health, in turn become telemedical partners with healthcare leaders in a variety of industries including surgical robotics, clinical education, medical supply manufacturing, and many others to provide real-time telehealth solutions that even go beyond connecting doctors with patients. The solutions revolutionize telehealth on a personal level that is on par with face-to-face care.
Providing the ability for patients to avoid the “Doctor of the Day” telehealth model is about more than just convenience. It’s about making the care they need available when they need it, without causing further stress and hardship – financial, travel, and otherwise. Effective communication is essential for proper medical care, and when patients are able to virtually visit with their main doctors instead of a random provider, that communication does not suffer – and neither do the patients. Isn’t that what comprehensive medical care is all about?