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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