Embracing digital tools in health care
As digital innovations continue to blossom, sectors rooted in human interactions are benefiting from new technologies. That’s the case in health care, which has always been about people helping people through expertise, commitment to care, and communication. Today, as technology becomes an evermore integral part of our lives, it is being utilized in numerous ways to improve health care, providing convenience and access while assisting providers and enhancing the patient experience.
A recent study by the American Medical Association (AMA) is a case in point, finding that more doctors are embracing and incorporating digital tools. Physicians' use of technology for virtual visits has doubled since 2016, with nearly 30% of doctors now utilizing some form of virtual care. The research also shows that doctors’ use of other digital health tools is also on the rise – 58% enable consumer access to clinical data, 47% utilize point-of-care or workflow enhancements, and 37% use clinical decision support tools which are modules used in conjunction with the electronic health records (EHR) or apps that integrate with the EHR to highlight potentially significant changes in patient data (e.g., gain or loss of weight, change in blood chemistry).
Technology as an amplifier of human care
Technology is not overshadowing human care, but rather amplifying and empowering it. Today’s digital tools and those on the horizon complement and bolster the clinician’s ability to provide nuanced care and extend access to more patients, helping them be actively engaged in their health journey. At Evernorth, we believe that virtual and digital care can be particularly impactful for people living with chronic conditions, helping health care providers stay more connected to patients and keeping patients engaged in their health between in-person appointments.
“Technology is an extension, a facilitator that provides a deeper dive into patient care with real-time data and enables us to address evolving patient needs with informed precision,” said Dr. Maggie Williams, Virtual Primary Care Medical Director at MDLIVE by Evernorth.
Let’s look at some of the ways technology is helping patients with chronic conditions.
Engaging patients through tech-driven health coaching with MDLive
Technology-powered health coaching exemplifies this human-tech synthesis. By employing digital tools, health coaching transcends geography and time constraints, offering personalized guidance to patients at their convenience. While many are familiar with digital health coaching in the behavioral/mental health space, it is rapidly becoming an important tool to support people with chronic conditions by keeping them engaged in their care between doctor’s visits, when their commitment to treatment goals may decline.
For that reason, MDLIVE recently introduced a health coaching program to its primary care offering. Unlike many standalone health programs and apps, our physician-driven program supports patients with chronic conditions in making important lifestyle changes as part of the care plan developed with their MDLIVE primary care physician. The health coaching program is fully integrated into the company’s primary care offering and is compatible with a variety of personal devices.
Remote patient monitoring for improved health outcomes
Remote patient monitoring, another facet of digital health, has become a game-changer in real-time health care delivery and a crucial component in supporting patients living with chronic health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure. Insider Intelligence, a leading research, data and insights provider, estimates that 60.6 million American patients will be using remote patient monitoring tools such as wearables, sensors, and mobile apps by 2024, and by 2027 the global market for RPM systems is estimated to be $1.7 billion.
The use of remote patient monitoring to track and monitor key biometrics such as blood pressure, weight, and glucose levels in real-time gives health care providers valuable insights into a patient’s condition. Benefits may also include improved chronic condition management, early detection of complications, and the ability to enhance adherence to treatment plans through reminders, alerts, and real-time progress notifications. These can potentially add up to improved health outcomes that help reduce the total cost of care by minimizing hospitalizations, readmission rates, and emergency room visits.
As virtual monitoring continues to gain acceptance and adoption, incorporating these technologies into telehealth services such as virtual primary care, as MDLIVE has done, has vastly improved providers' ability to deliver continuity of care and enabled patients and providers to work together to make more informed and personalized decisions.
Telehealth: Virtual care improves access to care
Telehealth has emerged as a pioneering pathway between health care providers and patients, melding the irreplaceable expertise of doctors with the power of technology. Through virtual consultations, patients can seek medical advice without the barriers of geographical distance or time constraints. It's a remarkable stride toward making health care more accessible and responsive, especially in areas where medical facilities are sparse or in situations that require immediate attention.
Virtual care companies such as MDLIVE are at the helm of this digital health care transformation. By providing virtual services such as urgent care, primary care, dermatology, and behavioral health, MDLIVE is increasing patient access and convenience while showcasing the tremendous potential of a harmonized human-tech interaction in enhancing the scope and quality of health care delivery.
"We are at a juncture where the interplay between digital tools and medical expertise is just beginning to reveal its potential,” Dr. Williams said. “The rise of telehealth is a testament to this synergy. It’s clear that digital health is not a fleeting trend; it's poised to be a mainstay. In the near future, the fusion of human know-how with digital technology will further empower physicians and patients to interact, engage, and make informed decisions.”
The rapid acceptance and usage of virtual care is noted in the tremendous growth in MDLIVE’s virtual primary care (VPC) offering, with visit volume jumping 260% year-over-year in 2022 following triple-digital growth in 2021.