Respiratory diseases are defined as illnesses that affect the lungs or other parts of the respiratory system. These include COPD, asthma, pulmonary fibrosis, lung cancer, and more. While these diseases can negatively impact the daily lives of those living with them, there are a number of great treatment and management options available today.
One way healthcare providers are helping make the treatment of respiratory diseases easier is by using virtual care pathways. Virtual care pathways are telehealth management tools that use plans for patients who require the same or similar treatment. Through virtual platforms such as aTouchAway, providers can use these pathways to assess patients’ needs and automatically assign workflows for care teams, patients, and other members of their circle of care, all within the same, easy-to-use platform.
In this blog, we will go into more detail about the improvements virtual care pathways bring to patients, and the benefits providers can realize by adopting them.
Key Improvements in Patient Outcomes With Virtual Care Pathways
Virtual care pathways are becoming increasingly popular among healthcare providers. With the COVID-19 pandemic changing the way many healthcare facilities operate over the last year, the inefficiencies caused by unnecessary hospitalizations and in-person healthcare visits have been brought to light. Virtual care pathways not only reduce these challenges but allow patients to be better connected with their healthcare providers and have their needs met in a more timely manner.
Allows Patients To Stay Connected With Their Healthcare Providers More Regularly
For patients living with respiratory diseases, having a way to reach their healthcare provider if symptoms progress is important. Unfortunately, with changing regulations around COVID-19 and clinic closures becoming a common occurrence, many patients have not been able to receive the care they are used to, and require. That said, staying connected with care providers has become easier than ever before through telehealth platforms and virtual care pathways.
Through these platforms, patients can have daily assessments conducted to determine whether their symptoms are worsening and automatically be provided with resources or treatment instructions to take action that day. Additionally, patients can send a message to their healthcare provider, schedule virtual appointments, or video chat with other members of their care team. This efficient method of communication is helping patients stay better connected with their support system, and is allowing them to effectively manage their symptoms
Reduces Hospitalizations and In-Person Healthcare Visits
Hospitalizations and frequent in-person healthcare visits are difficult for everyone involved, but especially for patients. For this reason, limiting the number of in-person appointments and hospitalizations for patients living with respiratory diseases has become a top priority for healthcare providers.
In-person visits are often required with traditional care pathways so that providers can assess patients’ symptoms and assign the appropriate treatment or care measures. For patients who prefer not to travel to in-person appointments or those who live in rural communities, this can negatively affect how they receive care. Not only that, but healthcare services are also difficult to access in many areas, with an average of only 39.8 primary care physicians per 100,000 population in nonmetropolitan areas compared to 53.3 in larger metropolitan areas.
With virtual care pathways, physicians can deliver care to patients no matter where they are located. As patients get used to the routine of meeting with their doctor virtually, many have found the transition to this new method of care to be simple.
Allows Patients Needs To Be Recognized and Treated Efficiently
Virtual care pathways allow specific members of a patient’s care team to be notified or assigned duties based on the patients changing needs. If a patient requires a particular treatment or educational resources based on their current symptoms, the workflows that have been created can be followed to automatically respond and provide them with the required care.
Through the virtual care platform you use, patients with respiratory diseases can be provided with information about inhalers, breathing positions, and more. Here, patients can also follow the workflows they are assigned to modify behaviours or reduce exposures to triggers that often result in hospital visits.
Limitations of Traditional Care Pathways for Providers
Results in Unnecessary In-Person Healthcare Visits
Traditional care pathways do not offer many of the features that are available through virtual pathways. When using traditional pathways as opposed to virtual ones, patients will require more in-person visits, and will need to book more full-length appointments to get the care they require.
This can cause an increase in appointments that could have otherwise been handled by communicating with patients on a shorter, more regular basis, and having them follow their virtual care pathway when specific symptoms arise.
Without having the tools required to self-manage certain components of their illness from home, patients may also end up hospitalized if they are unable to get an appointment at their regular clinic.
Increases Staffing Needs and Contributes to Healthcare Inefficiencies
When patients are required to visit healthcare facilities in person, there must be a team of staff who are ready to support their needs. Administrative staff, nurses, physicians, respiratory therapists and other healthcare professionals are some of the many staff needed in clinics and hospitals when treating patients with respiratory diseases.
As staffing costs account for around 60% of hospital expenses and also make up a large portion of medical clinics expenses, it is important that these costs are optimized to ensure more patients are able to receive treatment. Virtual care pathways can help healthcare providers reduce costs by automating tasks such as assigning workflows based on common patient symptoms and reducing the time spent on other repetitive administrative duties.
When healthcare staff are able to better optimize their time through efficient tools such as virtual care pathways, they can improve the quality of care they provide to patients who require more manual care while simultaneously helping others manage their illnesses virtually.
Continuing To Improve Outcomes for Patients With Respiratory Diseases
Many providers have adopted over-the-phone appointments or other socially distanced measures to meet their patient needs as our healthcare systems adjust to the changes caused by the pandemic. For patients with respiratory diseases, consistent monitoring may be required, which is difficult through over-the-phone appointments. Virtual “face to face” appointments, which can easily be partnered with virtual care pathways can help providers achieve this.
A study done by Novo Nordisk Canada showed that 38% of Canadians with chronic illnesses surveyed said they are avoiding the healthcare system all together during the COVID-19 pandemic. Without the right tools or resources, these patients will likely not receive the care they need, and may require hospitalization if their disease is not properly managed.
By adopting virtual care pathways, healthcare providers can effectively treat patients who fall into this category, and continue to provide a more accessible care option for their patients during, and after the pandemic.
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