Virtual can create strong connections to create new rituals
As the Fjord Trends 2021 report notes, the pandemic, and its associated disease control measures, disrupted rituals including how we celebrate life and loss—and how we live each day. Routine practices, such as doctor’s appointments, are different. Businesses and people alike looked for innovative ways to adapt. The move to virtual care is a prime example.
While virtual care can at times be isolating, it can also be integrating. There are innovative ways to use technology to influence behaviors, provide choices or enable people to better understand their disease or health issue. Some hospitals are providing iPads to allow patients battling COVID-19 to connect safely to loved ones. Massachusetts General Hospital has launched two new inpatient virtual care programs aimed at improving patient care and connecting patients with their loved ones during the COVID-19 pandemic.3 Others are making sure that family members can connect virtually with pregnant moms to be part of a birth experience. Without technology, these patients would feel more alone.
The potential of virtual for mental health alone is astonishing. Many people feel isolated right now and are struggling to cope. In fact, 83% of US employees are facing mental health issues amid this global pandemic, according to a survey.4 Virtual care has tremendous potential to help people at scale. Mental health care provider Lyra has grown from 50,000 members to 800,000 in this past year. The company partners with employers to offer workers tools such as video coaching, symptom checkers and therapy sessions at the workplace.5
Beyond virtual therapy sessions, people can access tools such as online diaries to journal feelings, text reminders that encourage positivity and group sessions that connect people with others who are feeling the same. Some innovative health organizations are even looking at how group sessions can help to solve behavioral health affordability and access problems.
A platform for partnership
Healthcare organizations can find new ways to have differentiated engagement with patients across a combination of in-person and virtual channels. Virtual health can help to empower people to play their part and take greater ownership of their care. Conversational AI can help triage patients and check symptoms, notifying a person whether or not they need to seek care. Patients can use apps to access mental health services or learn about conditioning and weight training exercises as they recover post-surgery.
Before the patient even gets to the point of surgery, they could meet with the doctor who shares the individual’s X-rays or MRI results in real time to make the care experience more comfortable and people-centric. Data has an important role to play in this effort. Data analytics and intelligence can help providers to better understand the individual—what makes them different—so that they may provide more personalized services. When providers know more about a patient, people will feel their unique needs are being met. Data can also help connect the dots across care interactions (labs, visits, chart notes and more) to enable a longitudinal health record.
Embarking on a new frontier
We are all spending much more time on screens to interact with the world around us. The pandemic forced the need to deliver care at a distance. The industry moved to virtual care quickly. It helped solve many problems, but now it’s time to think bigger about the potential.
We believe healthcare organizations should consider three actions:
- Make high-tech interactions more “human” to avoid the sea of sameness
- Look for ways to use virtual to create new connections and healthcare rituals
- Harness human and technology ingenuity to empower patients
Start exploring these possibilities to be part of a new frontier of care that makes people feel cared for and connected at the same time.
Thank you to my colleague, Dr. Darryl Gibbings-Isaac, for sharing his expertise for this post.