It’s now been six months for many health services since rapidly rolling-out their virtual COVID-19 responses. Teams may be weary and, depending on where you are in the country, things could look bleak, with no real end in sight. Our thoughts go out to all those still amid the battle.
Taking a moment out of the crisis response we consider the positives. The need for social isolation has finally brought virtual care delivery into the mainstream in order to keep those with the virus and vulnerable groups out of traditional healthcare locations and reduce the burden on services.
This has led to the rapid increase of patient home-monitoring services, telehealth consultations and other virtual care delivery approaches – a testament to what can be achieved when needs must.
The rush to establish virtual care services may have stabilised for many and services are now taking stock and re-assessing their effectiveness, what can be improved and considering – what’s next?
The age of virtual healthcare
Done well, virtual care isn’t just about digitising or virtualising existing models of care – replicating care delivered in a ward or clinic to that provided at home or in a regional hub. The pandemic has presented the sector with a golden opportunity to reimagine care delivery to make it better for patients, carers and staff and enable changes long understood to be needed.
The pandemic was the incentive the healthcare sector and governments needed to drive critical changes which could have a profound and lasting positive impact.
Today, the ‘healthcare of the future’ envisioned by futurists and consulting firms alike (yes, including us) and embraced by state and territory health departments, no longer appears a long-term trajectory. Health services are rapidly harnessing the tidal wave of acceptance in virtual technology and swiftly driving cultural change across both its patients and workforce.
The healthcare team at GWI has also been busy these past six months supporting state health departments, healthcare services and Primary Health Networks to identify opportunities and assess which are right for their specific population needs, challenges, budget and capabilities. This work has included:
Options for remote care and managing the patient journey:
- Supporting a state health department and Local Health District serving rural and remote populations define options for delivering a new vision for remote care and better manage the end-to-end patient’s journey. This work also included broad stakeholder engagement to gather requirements to support the procurement of new technology to enable this vision.
Reprioritising strategic plans to incorporate more virtual care
- Supporting a Regional Hospital and Health Service reprioritise its strategic plans to take advantage of new strategic visions for virtual care delivery and other key trends in healthcare delivery.
Data and analytics to deliver strategic objectives
- Undertaking a maturity assessment and developing a roadmap to increase the data and analytics capability in a Primary Health Network heavily reliant on the use of data and analytics to support improved population health outcomes.
Refocus – key trends
If you can take a breath, now is the time to revisit strategic plans and project portfolios to ensure alignment with the new landscape and opportunities. The backdrop has altered significantly in terms of expectations and real-world, scaled applications of virtual care approaches.
Some key trends include:
Virtual clinical consults, particularly for rural and remote settings reducing time and cost to travel for specialist treatment – but also value for mental health or low urgency clinical advice, reducing patients’ need to travel for routine specialist check-ups.
Efficiencies through mobility – use of BYOD for clinical and administrative staff to enable greater flexibility in the location of healthcare service provision.
Centralised digital control centres – visibility of the real-time status of patients and resources across hospitals enhancing decision-making. Integrated dashboards track clinician and team performance, infection risk levels, nurse staffing levels, bed availability, service line performance, and other variables.
End-to-end patient journey – better management of the patient’s journey through the health service, taking longitudinal case management rather than an episodic approach to care.
Remote monitoring – remote monitoring of patient deterioration in hospital and supporting patient self-care at home (employs the use of AI, real-time data analytics).
It’s an incredibly tough time for citizens and healthcare providers alike, but let’s seize that silver lining and emerge with a health system transformed for the better as a result.