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What Does Virtual-First Care Actually Mean?

Virtual-first care revolves around creating better patient experiences while improving workflows within clinics and hospitals. When done right, it can provide benefits to both the clinicians and the patients.


To understand the proper definition of virtual-first care, we need to look at it in the larger context that it’s used.


Virtual-First Care vs. Telehealth


The terms virtual-first care and telehealth are often used interchangeably to describe medical care given virtually, but the reality is there are some differences in these approaches and patient care methods. Clinics have provided telehealth for decades when they discuss health matters with a patient via a telephone.


If a patient called their healthcare provider and received any type of medical advice, this might be considered telehealth medicine. It may also incorporate streaming video to deliver care in an appointment format. Telehealth, however, is not patient-centric. It’s doesn’t give the patient the ability to see their medical provider wherever they might be most comfortable.


Virtual-first care is designed to be patient-centric and problem-oriented. It might incorporate mobile devices, video, or a landline into the visit. Clinicians are given the ability to quickly and immediately gain access to patient records before, during, or after the visit. The focus is on creating an environment where both the patient and the clinician are comfortable. Technology can be used in ways that enrich the appointment experience in ways that often can’t be duplicated in-person.


Virtual-First Care Defined


Virtual-first care is medical care provided and guided by a clinician through digital channels, and easily integrated into the patient’s life. It gives the patient the ability to access care from any location at any time through modern technologies. Virtual-first care is designed to provide a patient with well-rounded care and the background they’ll need to take the necessary steps within their individual health journeys.


Providers are subject to the same regulations and laws that govern in-person visits within their industry. They’ll still need to provide the same high standards of care while focusing on safety, security, privacy, and the data rights of patients. For example, HIPAA compliance is a significant part of any virtual-first care plan and platform.


What Does Virtual-First Care Look Like?


The pandemic brought about a significant shift to telehealth care from clinicians to prevent a further spread of infection. As patients began to appreciate the convenience of that in-home care, more providers are opening virtual-only practices or transitioning their current practice to that type of service model to better provide for patients.


These practices would incorporate staff and workflows based on this remote-only care model, instead of incorporating it into a workflow designed to provide in-person care. Virtual-first care practices would also include technologies that are designed to monitor patient care within the home environment. Some of the various medical practices that might be able to operate outside the traditional models of healthcare services include:


  • Physicians

  • Mental health

  • Coaching

  • Nutrition consulting


Virtual-First Care Provides a Higher Level of Accessibility


Virtual-first care would provide patients that live in remote or underserved areas of the country the ability to receive high-level care without the need to travel. They could make and attend any appointments necessary virtually. A virtual approach can also reduce the anxiety of patients that feel pressure with in-person appointments by giving them a more relaxed environment for their care.


Patients don’t need to feel the pressures of what to tell their clinicians as the records are accessible and appointments can be recorded for later documentation. Additional 24/7 monitoring devices can also provide the further data that gives the provider more insight.


Virtual-First Care Provides More Accurate Patient Data


When patients use wearables and track the variables daily through a virtual-first care platform they are going to get more detailed data that provides a more accurate story. Contrast this with a patient coming in for a yearly exam and might have high blood pressure because they are feeling anxious about being at the appointment, or recent situational stress on the job. There are any number of factors that could inflate or distort numbers that aren’t being measured.


When the numbers are more detailed and accurate it becomes easier for the patient to take proactive steps necessary to stay healthy. In this way virtual-first care allows patients to make the behavioral changes that lead to a healthier lifestyle. This is not something that would come from telehealth alone.


Is Your Practice Ready to Make the Commitment to Virtual-First Care?


Virtual-first care has tremendous advantages for both patients and clinicians. It’s a way to fit medical care into the comfort of everyday life for patients. Hbox is dedicated to providing solutions, platforms, and devices that improve virtual-first care for patients. If you are looking to make this transition for your practice, contact us today!


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