The Virtual Care Concerns ‘Keeping Physician Executives Up at Night’
In the panel discussion “What’s Keeping Physician Executives Up at Night: Powering the Future of Care Delivery and Ensuring Policy Doesn’t Stifle Innovation,” healthcare leaders explained their biggest virtual care concerns and overall healthcare issues and outlined needed change.
Denise Gonzales, medical director at Presbyterian Healthcare Services, said that while her organization is still conducting telemedicine visits, there are parts of New Mexico, where the health system is based, that don’t have a reliable broadband connection. Her major concern was how the industry can tackle the connectivity disparity to provide equitable care to communities that are underserved and lack access.
For Christina Chen, medical director at Bright.md, the rise in healthcare consumerism is a challenge the industry needs to be prepared to address.
LEARN MORE: ATA's Dr. Joseph Kvedar on the current telehealth landscape.
“It’s affecting the ability to retain patients. They’re not just patients anymore — they’re consumers. They want easy, accessible and timely care similar to what they receive in other aspects of their life,” she said. “Patient are going to direct-to-consumer offerings online. They don’t want to be on hold for 30 minutes, then on the phone with a person for 20 minutes to schedule an appointment that will take place two to three weeks from now. A typical in-person visit takes 121 minutes. Physicians had to think about how to compete with direct-to-consumer options first with low-acuity conditions, but now that includes complex and chronic conditions.”
Physician burnout and a shortage of providers are additional points of concern affecting all segments of healthcare. Chen said that it’s only getting worse.
“How do we solve this problem? A lot of physicians will tell you technology and tools make their jobs harder, and that it takes longer,” she said. “We need to find ways to deploy technology to combat burnout and focus on things that don’t require a physician to do. We need them to focus on the hard stuff like clinician decision-making.”
She said if implemented correctly, digital tools can decrease physician anxiety. Finding ways to integrate the patchwork of tools implemented during the pandemic is key to mitigating burnout.