Virtual care uses technology to connect clinicians and patients with the goal of delivering care when and where it is needed.
‘Virtual care’ is an interaction between patients and their care team using technology. The interaction aims to facilitate or maximise the quality and effectiveness of patient care.
Virtual care technology could include telephones, video conferencing, mobile apps, text-based messaging, or other communication methods.
Virtual care includes:
- synchronous tools such as video conferencing that allow for real-time communication
- asynchronous (store-and-forward) applications such as secure messaging
- digital self-care tools such as applications that collect and store examination data
- and remote patient monitoring.
Virtual healthcare is designed to complement existing health services. It can be used for assessment, intervention, consultation, education and/or supervision.
Benefits of virtual care for patients, families and carers
- Provides more timely access to care, securing the next available appointment
- Increases timely access to appropriate interventions, including faster access and access to services that may not otherwise be available
- Reduces the burden of travel on health and wellbeing
- Reduces the burden on carers
- Reduces financial barriers and costs associated with travel
- Reduces the inconvenience or impact on families and carers, work commitments and social factors
- Provides access to services not otherwise available, reducing inequities in access to health services
- Provides tools to help people understand and manage their health condition
- Fewer face-to-face specialist visits
- Larger networks of care as more carers, family and friends can attend consultations
- More patient-centred care, with increased independence and self-management.
Benefits of virtual care for providers
- Improves communication, networking and collaboration between healthcare professionals across the health sector
- Provides flexible and responsive workplaces to support workforce needs
- Extends hours of service access and provides consistent, continuous care
- Extends the scope of practice for rural and remote clinicians through consultation and shared care with specialists
- Greater support and reduced professional isolation for rural clinicians
- Empowers people to self-manage their health condition
- Greater access to continuing education and professional development, including more experiential learning
- Supports the development of flexible and sustainable service delivery models that promote integration across primary and secondary care, particularly for people with chronic conditions
- Reduces time spent travelling, expenses related to patient transport and the burden on subsidised transport schemes.
Virtual care can connect patients with providers no matter where they are and can lead to better outcomes and healthier populations.