A hybrid model of healthcare combines in-person and virtual patient visits to ensure optimal care and it will become a standard feature of the health sector, moving forward.
While the pandemic revealed the important role virtual care technology plays in the delivery of safe and effective remote health services, it also revealed another truth: virtual care is not a replacement for in-person care.
Depending on a patient’s unique clinical requirements, health professionals will always need to have face-to-face appointments available for their patients.
However, there are many situations when virtual care that utilises advanced telehealth technology can be used to deliver clinical care to remote patients.
The combined use of in-person and virtual visits is called ‘hybrid care’.
Hybrid care improves coordinated care across the patient journey by providing health professionals and patients with greater flexibility in how, when, and where they engage.
Whether a GP practises family medicine in a rural clinic, or a medical specialist consults in a busy city practice, hybrid care has an important role to play: From triaging patients and managing chronic conditions, to pre-operative appointments and post-surgery care, a mixture of face-to-face visits and virtual appointments ensures patients receive optimum access to professional care. The important thing is, both clinicians and patients have the choice of whether to meet in-person, or to engage remotely.
For example: for remote patients required to travel for specialised care, or patients who are immunosuppressed, a health professional at the far end can perform a virtual visit to perform safe and prompt health assessments. If the clinician decides a patient requires a further face-to-face consultation, an appointment can be easily scheduled.
Hybrid care using clinical telehealth
Hybrid care that utilises clinical telehealth technology expands the scope of health services that can be provided virtually to remote patients.
Using a virtual care system that supports a suite of integrated medical devices, a remote physician can perform a detailed medical examination of a patient, with the support of a health professional by the patient’s side.
With access to real-time patient data and medical grade imaging, the remote physician can check patient health for an evidence-based diagnosis. If required, additional medical specialists can join the virtual consultation to assist with patient review, or the physician may decide that the patient requires a face-to-face appointment.
For continuity of care, all patient data and media collected during a virtual consultation using the ProEX can be securely saved to an electronic health record and shared with other health providers involved in the patient’s treatment. Using saved patient data, the Visionflex ProEX system can assist in the generation of health reports.
The provision of hybrid care can also alleviate many capacity issues in hospitals and health clinics, for example:
- Hybrid care can reduce a patient’s length of stay in hospital.
A patient can return home and access health services remotely, via a ‘hospital-in-the-home’ virtual care model. If the doctor decides additional treatment is needed, an in-person visit can be quickly, and easily, scheduled.
- Hybrid care can improve consultation liaison.
A patient can have multiple pre-scheduled virtual appointments at the bedside, with numerous remote medical specialists, and, if required, the patient’s GP and/or family members can be easily included in these video consultations. Face-to-face consultations can be scheduled when required.
- Hybrid care can enhance time efficiencies.
Doctors and specialists who are ‘on call’ can provide a virtual patient-triage service from their clinic or home. When used for remote assessments, virtual care can improve rates of potentially preventable hospitalisations. Virtual visits have also been shown to be a convenient alternative to in-person visits, and result in fewer ‘no shows’, fewer cancellations, and a higher continuity of care.
- Hybrid care can enhance service availability.
During regular working hours, face-to-face patient visits can be provided; while after hours, virtual services can be performed by remote qualified staff who live and work in a different time zone.