The Most Important Things to Consider When Choosing a Virtual Care Solution

Virtual care solutions are one of the most recent advancements in healthcare to gain widespread popularity among patients and providers. Millions of people around the world have had to make changes to their daily routines due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and as society increasingly turns towards the convenience of virtual communication mediums, solutions such as virtual care platforms are becoming the new normal for many. Depending on the structure of your healthcare organization and your patients needs, there are many virtual care solutions that can help you stay connected with patients more efficiently.

In this blog, we will cover the most important things you should consider when choosing a virtual care solution for your healthcare organization to ensure you are providing the best possible care for your patients while maintaining efficiency in your organization.

Finding the Right Virtual Care Solution for Your Healthcare Organization

When choosing a virtual care solution for your healthcare organization, it is essential to consider the strengths and weaknesses of each solution and assess the components that make each one unique. Since no two are exactly the same, it may take some initial research to discover the virtual care solution that meets the needs of your organization. By following this guide for things you should consider when choosing a virtual care solution, you can more confidently find and implement a solution that benefits your patients and staff.

Patient Care Features

Virtual care solutions can be used to connect with patients through video visits, care pathways, remote patient monitoring, and so much more. Whether your healthcare organization specializes in treating a specific illness or serves a broader spectrum of patients, it is important to make sure that the features available in the virtual care solution you choose can meet your patients’ needs.

While there are several virtual care solutions that exclusively allow healthcare providers to connect with patients remotely through virtual checkups or remote patient monitoring, other solutions offer more integrated features. Dynamic virtual care solutions such as aTouchAway™ connect patients with a diverse set of needs with the care they require. Through platforms such as these, healthcare providers can monitor patients remotely and conduct daily assessments, provide care plans for patients with chronic illnesses, manage clinical workflows, and communicate with patients virtually on a recurring basis.

Reliability

As with any technology, there will inevitably be times where technical support will be needed. Whether it is a member of your staff, or a patient who requires assistance, the solution you choose must have a reliable platform with a team who is ready to assist with the platform’s features.

To ensure your patients and members of your team are able to quickly overcome technological hiccups and be on track with providing and receiving care, it is wise to choose a virtual care solution that provides this type of continuous customer support. By ensuring the virtual care solution your organization uses provides this, you can reduce wait times in resolving technical issues and provide a better overall experience to your patients.

Device Compatibility

Virtual care solutions can make the process of providing care more convenient for everyone involved, especially when patients don’t need to purchase additional devices to receive care. One way virtual care solutions are increasing accessibility to patients is ensuring they are compatible across multiple devices such as mobile phones, tablets, laptops, and traditional desktop computers.

In addition to working across multiple devices, virtual care platforms can also be linked with medical equipment that deliver patients vital signs to their healthcare provider in real time. This equipment is sent to patients when they begin using the virtual care platform and can be synced with the device they use to send regular updates to their care team, further simplifying the patient’s virtual care experience.

User Interface

A user interface is the physical component in which users can control the software or platform they are using. With smartphones and other devices being a part of everyday life for most people today, it is sometimes easy to forget that there are millions of individuals who are not fully comfortable using unfamiliar user interfaces. This is due to a number of factors, but primarily affects older generations.

A study published by Liebertpub found that many patients had difficulty adapting to virtual care due to a lack of technological literacy over the last year. By choosing a platform with a user interface that is simple and easy to understand, patients will be able to seamlessly navigate through the different components of their virtual care solution and be encouraged to continue receiving care in this way.

Security Features

Anything that records a patients’ health history must be fully secure to keep sensitive information private. Some common risks that virtual care solutions pose are a lack of control of the collection and use of data, and the risk of hackers or malware compromising this data.

Many patients understandably have their concerns about breaches of privacy when it comes to their personal information, therefore it is important to choose a solution that contains strong security features to keep them protected and feeling comfortable utilizing virtual care.

While most virtual care solutions do not have their specific security features listed online, you should ask about these features prior to making your final decision to ensure you are providing a secure solution for your patients.

What To Do Once You Have Chosen a Virtual Care Solution

After narrowing down your search and determining which virtual care solution you would like to implement, you should consult with a representative from the company to be given a walkthrough or demo of the solution. Given that many solutions only offer one or two features, such as remote patient monitoring or virtual checkups, you should check that their platform is able to improve efficiency in as many aspects as possible in your organization. Meeting with a representative from a dynamic solution can help you understand their many benefits, such as complete care management.

Virtual care solution providers can also help you through the steps you will need to take before implementing your virtual care solution. This can include guides for training staff on using the platform and getting patients set up with the platform and remote monitoring equipment if they require it.

Once you have successfully implemented your virtual care solution, your healthcare organization will likely begin seeing increased efficiency and patient outcomes. To continue seeing positive results, you and your staff should regularly track your progress and make adjustments where necessary.

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COPD Education – Onboarding

Objective

To complete a thorough needs assessment / initial evaluation for a COPD patient of an outpatient clinic

Actors
Patient, Educator (Nurse, RT, the Physician could also be the educator)

Timelines
One 60-90 min session with the Educator

Description
  • This protocol should be established for all COPD patients from a given clinic, independently of whether they are new patients or they are known to the clinic. This protocol is the basis to engage the patient into other protocols such as education, exacerbation follow-up, etc.
  • We need to identify patient goals/concerns to guide the interventions
  • A thorough evaluation is carried on, with the objective of understanding where the patient is on their disease journey and follow-up treatable traits: dyspnea, exacerbation or dyspnea and exacerbation.
  • It includes the use of objective questionnaires such as the mMRC, CAT, HADS, Frailty Scale, etc.
  • Identify if the patient needs to be referred to other resources (e.g. Physiotherapist, social worker, occupational therapist)
  • Once Onboarding is completed, the patient continues to the COPD Education workflow
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COPD Education – Continuous Maintenance

Objective 

To cover in depth all the necessary elements of self-management education as per the LWWCOPD, with priorities based on patient goals and identified treatable traits

Actors
Patient, Educator (Nurse, RT or Physician)

Timelines
A number of “Core” educational modules have been identified which cover the basic COPD education from the LWWCOPD program. Additionally, optional modules can be used to respond to patient needs. The timeline (frequency, number of modules to be covered at a given education session) is fully customizable, although we recommend to have education sessions every 2-weeks during the “active” phase of education. Once this is completed, the patient continues to the Maintenance Mode (see below).

Description
  • Launched at the onboarding protocol
  • Provide basic overview of COPD self-management based on LWWCOPD (medication adherence, inhaler techniques, PLB technique & energy conservation) up to the development of an Action plan for early exacerbation recognition and management.
  • Prioritize self-learning by the patient (e.g. watching videos, reading educational materials, completing homework) in addition to live sessions with the Educator. Educational materials are sent to the patient directly via the platform, and become the patient’s own library. The Educator can customize which “homework” the patient receives.
  • Educators have access to “User guides” to standardise their educational intervention. These user guides include: objectives, interventions, suggested questions, evaluation of self-efficacy, and learning contracts for each module.
  • Once the core education is completed, the patient can continue to the Respiratory Status Follow-up Workflow (run in parallel)

The Maintenance Mode
  • As soon as the maintenance mode is engaged, the frequency of visits Educator/Patient is reduced to once every 6 months.
  • During the Maintenance Mode sessions, the educator has access to all the education modules and can choose any piece of content that needs to covered with the patient. 
  • A streamlined evaluation (similar to the initial eval.) is done during each “maintenance” visit to identify any substantial changes on the patient’s needs that will require some adjustment. The patient could come back to an “active” education mode (more frequent education sessions, e.g. every 2 weeks).
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COPD Respiratory Status Follow-up

Objective

Monitoring of stable patients from a clinic in order to identify early any aggravation of symptoms (exacerbation) and implement an action plan

Actors
Patient, Educator (Nurse, RT or Physician)

Timelines
Scheduled regular automated follow-up to the patient symptoms. Intensity/Frequency can be adjusted by the Educator depending on patient needs (e.g. daily, every week, etc.). Ongoing through the year.

Description
  • Launch: Patients who have completed the Core Educational including setting-up an action plan.
  • Regular automated questions allow to identify any change in patient’s symptoms and severity.
  • If an exacerbation is detected the patient gets a reminder to engage their self-management strategies while waiting for the Educator to call back.
  • An alarm is generated for the Educator, so they immediately call back the patient. At this call they will evaluate any further intervention required and schedule additional follow-up.
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