Making the Cut: Exploring the Staying Power of Pandemic Era Virtual Care Technologies

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Jul 15, 2022

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New workflows, innovations, and technologies helped us get through the worst of the pandemic, but what features and capabilities will ensure that these advances have staying power?

In a National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA) Digital Quality Summit 2022 panel on Tuesday, July 12, emocha CEO Sebastian Seiguer and colleagues shed a light on this topic with insights gleaned from their respective organizations and the larger healthcare industry.

NCQA’s Eric Schneider moderated the panel that included Veronica Sander (Omada) and Dr. Rasu Shrestha (Atrium Health) as panelists.

Here are a few of the main takeaways from their discussion.

The pandemic lead to a mindset shift on digital healthcare

The panelists agreed that the pandemic, combined with the rise of social media applications like Snapchat and TikTok, created a cultural shift towards accepting virtual care technologies.

“It’s no longer unusual to take a video of yourself taking your medication, and it’s no longer unusual to engage with a healthcare team in that way,” said Seiguer.

Dr. Shrestha, the Chief Strategy and Transformation Officer and Executive Vice President at Atrium Health, commented on virtual care becoming the new norm.

“At some point, we’re going to stop talking about ‘virtual’ care much like how ‘mobile phone’ just became ‘phone,’ and online retail and e-commerce just became ‘retail,’ explained Dr. Shrestha.

“In the same way, ‘virtual care’ will just become ‘care.’ That’s the true transformation happening in front of our eyes.”

Patient-centric solutions will win

All three panelists advocated for patient-centered care as a core component of long-lasting virtual care technologies.

Sander, who serves as Omada Health’s Senior Privacy and Compliance Manager, detailed Omada’s extensive efforts to provide personalized care through their in-home care model.

Dr. Shrestha mentioned Atrium’s efforts to boost trust and empower patients with data and tools. He explained that a patient-centric approach is not just about the technology but must include a human influence to meet patients and communities where they are.

Seiguer shared that emocha’s biggest lesson during the pandemic was understanding that a personalized, hands-on connection with patients will lead to the most engagement and the best outcomes.

“Answers to medication adherence challenges can be hypothesized on a population level, but it really boils down to the individual patient,” Seiguer explained.

“And that battle is won on a day-to-day basis.”

Considerations of social determinants of health are paramount

There was a consensus that socioeconomic factors need to be important considerations for virtual care technologies.

Seiguer detailed how emocha, with a start in public health, only works in vulnerable populations. emocha’s patients include those with low levels of literacy, who live in remote areas with low internet connectivity, and a slew of other social determinants of health that act as barriers to medication adherence. He explained how emocha helps reach these patients through an easy-to-use user interface and a personalized connection.

“You have to adapt to the patient as you find them,” Seiguer added.

“And it’s not easy.”

Dr. Shrestha chronicled how Atrium Health is addressing the issue through a shift from a patient-centered approach to a person-centered approach to include preventative care.

“We’re answering the question, ‘what does it mean to truly thrive and live your best life possible no matter where you live, work and play and regardless of your socioeconomic status or zip code?” Dr. Shrestha said.

Relieving provider burden is an important consideration

Easing the lives of providers by delivering seamless clinical integration was a point of consensus for the panelists.

Dr. Shrestha mentioned that provider burnout was already an epidemic before the pandemic and that addressing this issue will become a more significant industry focus in 2022.

“42% of physicians reported being burned out last week in a survey by Medscape,” Dr. Shrestha explained.

“How do we leverage technology to reduce the friction points on care teams, and how do we manage to still humanize care?”

Seiguer noted that for emocha, the program’s ability to ease stress for providers by taking on patient engagement to improve medication adherence rates and address barriers to adherence is a value that emocha has honed over the years.

“I think this is still a challenge for external, non-homegrown technologies trying to work with providers,” Seiguer added.

Sander expanded the conversation by mentioning that another consideration for new virtual technologies is to reduce friction through their ability to effectively partner with providers to deliver a unified message to patients across levels of virtual and in-person care.

Virtual care is here to stay, policies need to catch up

As the session came to an end, the panelists agreed that the demand for virtual care services would continue long after the pandemic, and there is a need for policies that will support this need.

Dr. Shrestha mentioned the importance of addressing the challenge of payment and payer parity to continue allowing virtual care’s persistence.

Seiguer echoed this statement and highlighted CMS’s proposed changes to remote therapeutic monitoring services (RTM) that reveal a trend towards accepting more modalities in telehealth.

Coming out of the session, it was clear the pandemic supported the proliferation of virtual care technologies, and the strongest among them will not be going anywhere soon.

Read about emocha’s wins at the NCQA Digital Quality Summit Shark Tank competition.

For more information about emocha’s digital medication adherence platform, contact us to schedule a live demo.



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