Virtual Health: Moving from Cool Apps to Commercial Grade

Deepak Damodaran and Rulon Stacey, Governance Institute

This article appeared in the Third Quarter 2019 Issue of The Navigator. 
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Virtual health is here — and it’s moving fast. In an era of disruption, where new technologies are turning traditional care models upside down, healthcare board members and senior leaders must make bold moves to help their organizations stay ahead of the curve. One critical task for leaders: Apply the same vigor to planning for digital assets as for physical assets.

Virtual health is much more than a telehealth solution. It now includes remote monitoring, care management for complex populations, digitally enabled self-management, and data-driven treatment and intervention across multiple settings, from patients’ homes to clinics, skilled nursing facilities, hospitals, and more.

But while three in four hospitals now incorporate some aspect of virtual health, their investments often are limited to video conferencing with patients or consulting physicians. 

Why has the healthcare industry struggled with adoption of novel virtual health solutions? Our experience points to four reasons: 

Trust deficit. Physicians continue to struggle with “EHR fatigue” and the usability of EHRs — and for one in five physicians, it’s a major factor prompting them to reduce clinical work hours. Meanwhile, administrators are challenged to demonstrate the return on investment from new technologies, while consumers and clinicians alike question their impact on quality of care. 

Lack of understanding around value. The ability to clearly articulate the value proposition around virtual health investments is critical — but it isn’t easy. Physicians and administrators often have different views around what constitutes value in healthcare, and solution providers struggle to solve that disconnect. 

Change management complexity. Healthcare is a more labor-intensive industry than most industries undergoing digital transformation, and it’s also a mission-oriented profession. As a result, when changes in care delivery are suggested, they sometimes trigger an emotional response from staff. Knowing how to manage these emotions is critical to gaining staff buy-in. 

An “autonomous car effect” related to quality. Some leaders find physicians and staff are disappointed when AI-driven innovations deliver less than 100% accuracy — even when their level of accuracy exceeds that of manual care interventions. But digital solutions are still evolving, and in some instances, complete accuracy is not yet within reach. 

Overcoming these barriers is essential to bringing new, innovative models of care delivery to life.

As Guidehouse’s Rulon Stacey and Deepak Damodaran write in this Governance Institute article, Guidehouse has found that three behaviors typically hinder adoption of virtual health.

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