Utilizing Hybrid Medicine To Provide Flexibility and Support for Patients

Everything is going digital, and healthcare solutions aren’t any different. This revolution in healthcare technology was well underway even before the pandemic, but COVID-19 expedited the adoption of digital healthcare solutions, paving the way for convenient, efficient and innovative healthcare services. In a hybrid medicine model, providers and patients can either meet in person or virtually. Care teams and patients can benefit from the model’s flexibility, convenience, and accessibility.

A 2021 report by the Elsevier Public Health Emergency Collection journal indicates that less than 25% of providers relied on telemedicine at any stage of their career before the pandemic. But after the virus, 95% of respondents showed interest in using telemedicine to its full potential.

In fact, telehealth usage rates tripled from January to July in 2020 across the United States. Plus, the demand for virtual care is estimated to remain high. A survey by Insider Intelligence shows 83% of American adults are eager to keep using telehealth even after COVID-19.

Digital health remains, as Statista Research puts it, “a cornerstone of developed health systems all over the world.” With communication technologies that simulate in-person visits, patients get access to efficient, practical, and cost-effective services.

As the COVID dangers subside, however, many patients will opt back into face-to-face appointments with their doctors. However, with the newly adopted practice of using telemedicine, many patients will only go in-office for necessary appointments such as for appointments that require labs or a physical exam. For many clinics and healthcare teams to provide the best patient care, a flexible care model that can handle both in-person and digital services will be the future. That’s where hybrid medicine comes into play.

What is hybrid medicine?

Hybrid medicine is a blend of in-person care and telemedicine. While many were skeptical of this kind of model before the pandemic, CDC requirements made its adoption critical for health infrastructure around the world. The needs of patients who were at serious risk of infection were enough to spur industry-wide change — change that isn’t reversing any time soon.

Of course, virtual visits can’t completely replace in-person appointments. That’s because patients still need proper procedures like immunization, blood tests, and imaging. But the global health landscape has undoubtedly changed with the widespread introduction of telehealth. The difficult part? Putting together an integrated, holistic experience across outpatient, inpatient, home, and mobile care.

An ideal hybrid model combines all of these experiences to create a full continuum of care. Clinicians can use hybrid medicine to push traditional boundaries of science and health into a new age of patient-centered health and wellness.

How is hybrid medicine beneficial for patients?

Hybrid healthcare gives patients the opportunity to select a communication channel that’s tailored to their needs. Clinicians can also use it to let patients know when to move to a different kind of support or come in for treatment.

This will increase patient satisfaction and adherence while decreasing no-show rates. The hybrid model includes:

  • Remote patient monitoring
  • Quicker appointments/check-ins
  • Easy-to-book treatments
  • Faster follow-ups
  • Video conferencing

For a classic hybrid care example, consider a dermatology clinic that has recently opened after it was temporarily closed due to COVID-19. In-office appointments are now available; however, patients are reluctant to book treatment. With hybrid healthcare, medical experts can bypass these limitations and offer patients both virtual and in-patient visits.

For instance, the patient may want to treat a minor condition, like an acne breakout or psoriasis. Telehealth can still be a suitable solution in advising patients on how to better manage their condition. When medical treatment like surgery is necessary, in-person visits remain a top priority.

Because this dermatology clinic has already implemented telehealth, patients can feel more comfortable knowing that the clinic is at low capacity. The place isn’t cluttered with people, which can put patients at ease. Plus, they don’t have to wait in lines for an entire day just to get an appointment.

The benefits of hybrid medicine can be seen in its flexibility and ability to adapt to the patient’s needs. Patients can cancel and book treatments from the comfort of their homes. Healthcare experts can still provide the necessary support through it.

Physicians can also offer advice when they are outside the office. The advantages of the hybrid model affect the clinic as well. There is no need to rent an office 24/7 if patients can contact their doctor virtually. This creates a cost-effective solution.

Hybrid care can pick up the pace when fee-for-service is replaced by a value-based payment model. The reason for that is relatively simple. There has been a priority shift from gaining revenue from referrals, appointments, and testing to keeping patients healthy with health-based education and prevention-based care.

In the end, this distributed care model is driving positive patient outcomes, and new technology is making it feasible. Video conferences, emails, and texts provide easy communication using real-time alerts and solutions. When paired with attentive clinicians, it’s easy to see how hybrid care becomes a key component in preventive care. It supports better patient education, more reassurance, smoother booking, more listening, and faster check-ins so patients can stay on the right path to a successful recovery and better health.

What does it take to implement a hybrid medicine care model?

In the beginning, incorporating a hybrid model may come with certain barriers. Although more clinical experts are aware of the incredible benefits it can offer, you still have to plan to implement a hybrid model.

Every practice needs the proper infrastructure to make hybrid medicine a viable opportunity. Those are:

  • Workforce: To make the most of hybrid care, health systems need to optimize their training and staffing models. Healthcare providers will need to learn how to leverage digital tools in a sustainable and flexible way.
  • Software, technology, and tools: To facilitate patient-centered care in a hybrid model, you need experts capable of building secure, versatile, and practical tools that strengthen the patient-provider relationship.
  • Capital: Depending on your patient needs, implementing hybrid medicine can be an investment. You will likely be spending on cybersecurity, telehealth, and remote patient monitoring.
  • Security: Every clinic must meet strict regulatory and compliance guidelines. With telemedicine, cloud-stored data must remain programmable, automated, and secure.

So, what kinds of workflows do you need to create a hybrid care model? While online appointments remain the “bread and butter” for virtual communication, a hybrid model requires an integrated patient workflow.

Start with appointment scheduling. Provide a website and/or mobile experience that patients can use for online scheduling. A report by Healthgrades found that around 80% of patients prefer a doctor who provides online scheduling rather than scheduling over the phone.

Digital patient check-ins, registration, and billing services should also be available. With an option like this, people can get access to their insurance, medication details, and overall health history. Online forms are simple to use and can be accessed from anywhere and at any time.

Notifications are another convenient way to keep patients on the right track and reduce no-shows. With simple notifications, whether through email or text, you can inform patients about their upcoming appointment. They can then confirm, reschedule, or cancel it.

The future of hybrid medicine

The pandemic became a lightning rod for new changes in the healthcare system that were long overdue. Hybrid medicine is one of those changes, and it’s expected to leave quite an impact.

Hybrid medicine is both proactive and practical. It’s a less time-consuming method of delivering healthcare solutions at a more affordable cost. Even if clinicians and patients can benefit from it, however, clinics still have a number of challenges to overcome.

The initial complexity of incorporating this kind of model might seem taxing at first — but there are so many amazing digital health tools out there that make planning and implementing a hybrid model more accessible.

Holistic Care Management platforms like Welkin can make the transition easier. They incorporate best practices for billing, patient communications, and data storage in one place for care teams and allow clinicians to spend more time doing what they do best.

To find how to offer truly patient-centered care, check out our guide.

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