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    Three things to know about virtual clinics

    Patients are looking for their best option for care and they are searching for it online, according to a new survey.

    Telemedicine provider Carena, which partners with hospitals and health systems, collected data from nearly 30 health system partners in nearly 20 states between January 1 and December 31, 2016. To ensure patient satisfaction, Carena surveyed all of its virtual clinic patients after every visit. The survey looked at overall patient satisfaction, discovery of the virtual clinic (how the patient learned about the virtual clinic), and use case of the virtual clinic (were the patients’ needs met and where would they have gone for care otherwise) to determine how virtual clinics can better meet the needs of patients and health system partners. Approximately 10% of patient surveyed provide a response.

    Among many findings, the analysis showed that 44%  survey respondents did not have a primary care provider at the time of service and 66% of respondents said they would have gone to an urgent care facility or emergency room if not for the virtual clinic service.

    DerricksonDerrickson“Retail clinics and direct-to-consumer telemedicine options are competing with health systems online and building relationships with consumers creating fragmentation,” says Carena CEO Ralph C. Derrickson.

    “Health systems have an opportunity to capture market share, mitigate costs, and offset bad debts from high urgent care and ED utilization,” says Derrickson. “The virtual clinic provides a digital front door to the health system guiding patients to the most appropriate place for care at the time of need.”

    The analysis from patient surveys showed 3 key findings:

    1. Patients/consumers have an interest in virtual care more specifically when it comes from their local health system provider, because they recognize and trust the brand. More than 40% of survey respondents do not have a PCP relationship giving health systems an opportunity to build new relationships.

    2. Patients are using the virtual clinic as an affordable and convenient option for care compared to urgent care or ED. More than 60% of survey respondents would have gone to urgent care or ED if it weren’t for the virtual clinic.

    3. Patients learn about their health system virtual clinic online when they search for care. More than 35% of survey respondents learned about the virtual clinic online.

    “Healthcare executives need to reevaluate how they connect with patients and consumers,” says Derrickson. “A virtual clinic can create a digital front door for consumers searching online for affordable care options.”

    As providers begin to take on more risk, the ability to scale services and sustain patient relationships is essential to avoid leakage and better manage diverse patient populations, according to Derrickson.

    “Digital engagement provides health systems an opportunity to meet the needs required under a value-based environment and connect with patients on their terms,”  he says.

     

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