We will probably remember the COVID-19 pandemic as one of the greatest crises of our lifetimes, but hopefully also as a catalyst for development where digital care is a given – for the sake of healthcare, patients and society.When 2020 began, primary care accounted for the lion’s share of online consultations in Visiba Care, both in terms of receptions and the number of users. However, when the pandemic came, the biggest change happened in secondary care, which grew their digital health operations by 450% during the second quarter of the year. The immense need for online consultations in this area resulted in the picture changing quickly with the majority of our users now coming from secondary care. Take a look at how Visiba Care’s functions and features can fulfil the NHS funding requirements for virtual consultations in secondary care.
Primary care is one step ahead
Primary care pinned down how digital tools could help them with the capacity and accessibility issues in their operations earlier than secondary care – starting with a smooth initial contact that offers quick help for more manageable conditions. The online doctors from the private sector accelerated the process and propelled public healthcare providers to take the first step towards digital transformation. Now the majority is aligned on the fact that digital transformation also adds great value in secondary care. However, the way digital services can best be applied to different areas of healthcare has been a relatively unexplored area – Up until now.
Accessibility for the patient
When physical appointments were no longer an option, it became even clearer that patients already in treatment have a lot to gain from having certain appointments online – most of all, follow-up visits and consultations via video calls. However, new use cases were also explored: during the pandemic, putting patients in contact with their relatives has also been better managed with the help of digital tools. More healthcare areas have opened up for patient-initiated meetings and messaging conversations to increase accessibility and reduce the already high amount of stress among patients.
Big leaps in the right direction
We have seen many examples of adaptation in secondary care in the way they offer care. In the Swedish Region Västerbotten, patients can get in direct contact with the Dermatology and STI clinic via messages instead of turning to the physical locations. In another region, Västra Götaland, just over 400 employees in rehabilitation care have been trained in providing remote care. In the Region of Värmland, the workload of healthcare professionals active in the workforce was relieved by retired clinicians jumping in and helping out on the digital receptions. Let’s apply to the fullest of the fantastic work that has already taken place, which we thought was impossible a year ago.
With the patient in focus
For patients, the benefits on the intersection of healthcare and economy are obvious. Patients can save hours by avoiding unnecessary travel, long waiting times, and perhaps most importantly the risk of infection. They can alleviate uncertainty and address their questions in-between appointments with new contact pathways. Perhaps most importantly, when secondary care replaces some of the physical appointments with digital, they free up time and resources for the patients who really need to be at the clinic physically.
Manage and develop new pathways
The case may be that the pandemic pushed secondary care deep in digital transformation. However, we hope that the journey continues now that clinicians and patients have experienced first-hand the benefits and solidity of a bigger range of digi-physical care. The next step is to work more proactively with digital care through increased accessibility, more frequent follow-ups and continuity throughout the patient journey. We must now make sure to maintain the digital pathways we have built up and ensure that it becomes a natural and fully integrated part of the care offer!