OPINION ESSAY

Why you should (virtually) care

Virtual-first care, or V1C, could increase the quality of healthcare and make it more patient-centric by letting patients combine in-person visits with virtual options such as video for seeing their care providers.

(© Elnur/Fotolia)

As the pandemic turns endemic, healthcare providers have been eagerly urging patients to return to their offices to enjoy the benefits of in-person care.

But wait.

The last two years have forced all sorts of organizations to be nimble, adaptable and creative in how they work, and this includes healthcare providers’ efforts to maintain continuity of care under the most challenging of conditions. So before we go back to “business as usual,” don’t we owe it to those providers and ourselves to admit that business as usual did not work for most of the people the industry exists to help? If we’re going to embrace yet another period of change – periods that don’t happen often in our complex industry – shouldn’t we first stop and ask ourselves what we’re trying to achieve?

Certainly, COVID has shown that telehealth can be an invaluable tool, particularly for patients in rural and underserved communities that lack access to specialty care. It’s also become clear that many – though not all – healthcare encounters can be effectively conducted from afar. That said, the telehealth tactics that filled the gap during the pandemic were largely stitched together substitutes for existing visit-based workflows: with offices closed, patients scheduled video visits for help managing the side effects of their blood pressure medications or to see their endocrinologist for a quarterly check-in. Anyone whose children slogged through the last year or two of remote learning can tell you that simply virtualizing existing processes doesn’t necessarily improve the experience or the outcomes!

But what if our approach to post-pandemic healthcare came from a patient-driven perspective? We have a fleeting opportunity to advance a care model centered on convenient and equitable access that first prioritizes good outcomes, then selects approaches to care – and locations – tailored to each patient. Using the example of education, imagine how effective it would be if each student, regardless of their school district and aptitude, received such individualized attention.

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Jennifer C. Goldsack & Linette Demers
Jennifer C. Goldsack co-founded and serves as the CEO of the Digital Medicine Society (DiMe), a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to advancing digital medicine to optimize human health. Jennifer’s research focuses on applied approaches to the safe, effective, and equitable use of digital technologies to improve health, healthcare, and health research. She is a member of the Roundtable on Genomics and Precision Health at the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine and serves on the World Economic Forum Global Leadership Council on mental health. Previously, Jennifer spent several years at the Clinical Trials Transformation Initiative (CTTI), a public-private partnership co-founded by Duke University and the FDA. There, she led development and implementation of several projects within CTTI’s Digital Program and was the operational co-lead on the first randomized clinical trial using FDA’s Sentinel System. Jennifer spent five years working in research at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, first in Outcomes Research in the Department of Surgery and later in the Department of Medicine. More recently, she helped launch the Value Institute, a pragmatic research and innovation center embedded in a large academic medical center in Delaware. Jennifer earned her master’s degree in chemistry from the University of Oxford, England, her masters in the history and sociology of medicine from the University of Pennsylvania, and her MBA from the George Washington University. Additionally, she is a certified Lean Six Sigma Green Belt and a Certified Professional in Healthcare Quality. Jennifer is a retired athlete, formerly a Pan American Games Champion, Olympian, and World Championship silver medalist. ___________________________________________________________________________ Linette Demers leads IMPACT, a DiMe initiative dedicated to advancing high value, evidence-based virtual first care for patients, healthcare providers, and payers. Previously, Linette was responsible for commercialization, entrepreneurship and capital formation programs at Life Science Washington and WINGS Angels. Her 20 year career in healthcare spans strategy, business development, and population health management in oncology care at Fred Hutch, and management consulting at Sg2. Linette holds a PhD in Chemistry and a BS in Health Economics and Outcomes Research.
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Reducing proximity bias in remote work can improve public health and wellbeing

Employers can create a culture of “Excellence From Anywhere” to reduce the risk of inequality among office-centric, hybrid, and fully remote employees.

Photo by Christin Hume on Unsplash

COVID-19 prompted numerous companies to reconsider their approach to the future of work. Many leaders felt reluctant about maintaining hybrid and remote work options after vaccines became widely available. Yet the emergence of dangerous COVID variants such as Omicron has shown the folly of this mindset.

To mitigate the risks of new variants and other public health threats, as well as to satisfy the desires of a large majority of employees who express a strong desire in multiple surveys for a flexible hybrid or fully remote schedule, leaders are increasingly accepting that hybrid and remote options represent the future of work. No wonder that a February 2022 survey by the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond showed that more and more firms are offering hybrid and fully-remote work options. The firms expect to have more remote workers next year and more geographically-distributed workers.

Although hybrid and remote work mitigates public health risks, it poses another set of health concerns relevant to employee wellbeing, due to the threat of proximity bias. This term refers to the negative impact on work culture from the prospect of inequality among office-centric, hybrid, and fully remote employees.

The difference in time spent in the office leads to concerns ranging from decreased career mobility for those who spend less facetime with their supervisor to resentment building up against the staff who have the most flexibility in where to work. In fact, a January 2022 survey by the company Slack of over 10,000 knowledge workers and their leaders shows that proximity bias is the top concern – expressed by 41% of executives - about hybrid and remote work.

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Gleb Tsipursky
Dr. Gleb Tsipursky is an internationally recognized thought leader on a mission to protect leaders from dangerous judgment errors known as cognitive biases by developing the most effective decision-making strategies. A best-selling author, he wrote Resilience: Adapt and Plan for the New Abnormal of the COVID-19 Coronavirus Pandemic and Pro Truth: A Practical Plan for Putting Truth Back Into Politics. His expertise comes from over 20 years of consulting, coaching, and speaking and training as the CEO of Disaster Avoidance Experts, and over 15 years in academia as a behavioral economist and cognitive neuroscientist. He co-founded the Pro-Truth Pledge project.
Letter from the Editor

This month, Matt Fuchs becomes the new Editor-in-Chief of Leaps.org.

This month, Kira Peikoff passes the torch to me as editor-in-chief of Leaps.org. I’m excited to assume leadership of this important platform.

Leaps.org caught my eye back in 2018. I was in my late 30s and just starting to wake up to the reality that the people I care most about were getting older and more vulnerable to health problems. At the same time, three critical shifts were becoming impossible to ignore. First, the average age in the U.S. is getting older, a trend known as the “gray tsunami.” Second, healthcare expenses are escalating and becoming unsustainable. And third, our sedentary, stress-filled lifestyles are leading to devastating consequences.

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Matt Fuchs

Matt Fuchs is the editor-in-chief of Leaps.org. He is also a contributing reporter to the Washington Post and has written for the New York Times, Time Magazine, WIRED and the Washington Post Magazine, among other outlets. Follow him on Twitter @fuchswriter.