On top of Intensive Care Unit (ICU) and Surgery, AIMed will also be hosting a virtual meeting dedicated to healthcare executives this September. Two of the event speakers: Professor Thierry Mesana, President and Chief Executive Officer of the University of Ottawa Heart Institute and Dr. Nick Patel,  Chief Digital Officer of Prisma Health appeared on the latest AIMed webinar: Telemedicine and Virtual Care last Thursday (30 July) to share their thoughts on how COVID-19 has accelerated the adoption of technology and the impact of remote work on healthcare.

A reboot of the whole healthcare system

According to Professor TMesana, in the past, 90% of the consultations took place at the institution were conducted face-to-face and only about 10% were virtual but COVID-19 reverses it. Especially when it became mandatory to stop all elective surgeries and in-patient operations. He was amazed at the speed of adaption and how happy patients were.

He is glad that patients no longer have to wait a long time before they can meet with their cardiologists. “It used to be, if it wasn’t too urgent, it will probably take a couple of weeks because cardiologists are very busy. Today, nobody waits for more than a week to talk to a cardiologist either by video conferencing or phone. The cardiologists also have all patient information on his or her computers. I think this is a reboot of the whole system,” Professor Mesana says.

Dr. Patel agreed. He said being the largest healthcare system in the US state of South Carolina, Prisma Health had already started a lot of work in virtual care prior COVID-19 but the pandemic has really accelerated the effort significantly. Nevertheless, Dr. Patel noted it’s also important to take into consideration of other social determinants of health such as access to the internet and technology literacy.

“It comes down to patient engagement and enablement. I think we have to empower the patients,” Dr. Patel cited in South Carolina, patients who live in the rural areas without free or affordable internet access are also the same patients who have advanced heart diseases, diabetes, and strokes. “As we move more to a value-based care system, it’s imperative upon use to make sure that we are able to engage patients where and when they live,” Dr. Patel remarks.

Whether the change will stay

Professor Mesana echoed the comment, he added the telehealth program at the Ottawa Heart Institute has been going for two decades and is also serving many residents living in the rural areas. He had witnessed many patients benefitting from the effort as they no longer have to travel to the city to receive specialist care. However, Professor Mesana’s thought the change brought by the pandemic may not stay once the global health crisis is over.

“The current ratio is 90% virtual consultation and 10% face-to-face visit. I don’t expect it’s going to stay like this”. Professor Mesana said the challenge now is we do not have the remote technology to make a precise diagnosis. “So, the risk becomes, physicians who are running virtual consultations via video conference will become very conservative. They may ask the patients to undergo more tests than they would if they see the patient physically”.

Dr. Patel predicted the adoption of virtual care will lie somewhere between 30-40% and it will all depend on how the payers are going to feel about it. As of now, virtual consultation has a one to one reimbursement with some commercial payers reducing it to 80%. Dr. Patel encouraged payers to look at the positive side of virtual care, mainly how it has brought about better compliance to medical instructions, adherence to medications and patients not missing their appointments.

Besides, Professor Mesana also pointed out it will be interesting to observe how the younger generation perceive healthcare in the next 10 years. “I am not sure but in year 2050, people may not regard a physical examination by a physician as something normal, they may see it as some kind of invasion”. Dr. Patel added the Millennial population live in an automated World and it’s logical that they want on-demand care and healthcare may witness a shift that has it hasn’t experienced in the last century. The webinar is available for re-visit here.

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Author Bio

Hazel Tang A science writer with data background and an interest in the current affair, culture, and arts; a no-med from an (almost) all-med family. Follow on Twitter.