By Dr. Phillip Marshall
Patients expect their doctors to have their current and complete medical information to guide healthcare decisions. Consumers, especially those with chronic health conditions, also expect their healthcare providers to work with them on an ongoing basis to make sure their health is improving.
Those are natural expectations, but for providers who see most patients only once or twice a year, it’s difficult, if not impossible, to provide the ongoing, personalized care that most patients want. That’s where automated virtual care comes in. Rather than relying completely on episodic, reactive, and in-person care, automated virtual care offers the ability to provide continuous, collaborative, and proactive patient-centered care.
Let’s Get Personal
Personalized care that truly takes into account each patient’s specific situation is tricky. Traditionally, providers have found it challenging to provide individualized care because they often don’t trust the information patients give them. When asked questions in person, some patients try to give the answers they think the provider wants to hear rather than the most honest answers. But with an automated service, Conversa’s data shows, patients are more forthcoming than when answering questions in person.
For instance, when a doctor asks a cancer patient about their symptoms or side effects from radiation, the patient is likely to say, “I’m fine,” or “It’s OK,” not wanting to complain about effects that could be minor. But in some cases, those symptoms are important and the patient often has to be taken off therapy as a result. With an automated conversation system, we’ve found that patients are actually more honest and upfront, and quicker to identify symptoms than they are with the providers. The end result is a significant drop in the number of patients who have to be taken off their therapy.
The providers who utilize Conversa’s system are starting to realize that their patients answer often and accurately, giving a more complete view of their health status. In addition to getting more frequent and honest feedback from patients, an automated platform can also take into account more factors about a patient’s history. By asking patients specific questions, an automated platform can build a more comprehensive profile of each patient to accompany the data in the electronic health record. This comprehensive profile makes it possible to offer deeper and deeper personalization as the conversations continue.
After completing an automated chat with Conversa, 97% of patients say that it was helpful as an extension of their care. Patients also tell us constantly that they feel that their automated conversations are even more personalized than what they get in person, and that more factors are taken into consideration about their history, including things that have traditionally been ignored. These include social determinants of health such as food insecurity or transportation issues, as well as other circumstances that are unique to each patient and may influence the steps he or she is willing to take.
Proactive, Not Reactive
With ongoing, personalized interactions with patients, automated virtual care enables healthcare to be more collaborative, continuous and proactive rather than reactive. Keeping in touch with individuals between live visits allows providers to easily provide a higher level of care when necessary. But when a higher level of care isn’t needed, automated care can satisfy a patient’s need to stay healthy or get healthy without using those very expensive and scarce resources.
An automated platform can conduct automated conversations by gathering that structured patient-generated health data (PGHD) and analyzing that in real-time. It can provide guidance, feedback, and education that are meaningful to that individual, are personalized to their own unique needs and automatically satisfy their need for information. With intelligent chats, PGHD includes the ability to monitor and analyze “patient signals,” the wisdom that patients lend to data when they tell you what they are experiencing. When those interactions result in a red flag, the platform can automatically escalate the patient into the proper level of care, allowing for the proactive identification of healthcare needs, reducing unnecessary complications.
Through personalized, regular interactions, and automated virtual care platform can drive positive results such as:
- Reducing readmission rates. Ongoing, automated conversations with patients who were recently released from the hospital can help keep track of their progress or lack of progress, provide necessary intervention and reduce readmissions. Conversa has seen a 32% reduction in readmissions for participants in automated virtual health compared with nonparticipants.
- Improving therapy participation. Conducting automated chats with cancer patients and collecting information about side effects they may be having with their radiation therapy can reduce the percentage of patients having to be taken off of that therapy by almost 90%.
- Decreasing no-shows and cancellations. By staying in touch with patients on a regular basis, as they prepare for planned procedures such as colonoscopies, the automated platform can help ensure that they’re properly prepared and still planning to attend. Conversa’s automated system has been shown to decrease the number of no shows and cancellations for planned procedures by more than 60%.
- Optimize the use of telehealth resources. By proactively identifying the patients that require more support to stay/get back on track, automated conversations can escalate patients to telehealth automatically and based upon the specific criteria specified by the provider. Rather than waiting for patients to have new or uncontrolled symptoms, proactive outreach can expand the need and utility of telehealth services dramatically.
When properly executed, automated virtual healthcare allows providers to stay in touch with patients about chronic conditions and ongoing health needs, which represents about 85% of healthcare needs, in Conversa’s estimation. And it does so in a way that allows patients to feel heard, remembered, and in touch with their providers.
Automated virtual care will not and should not take the place of traditional healthcare, but it can provide a deep level of personalization and ongoing connection with patients at a low cost that can play a vital role in ensuring that traditional healthcare services are delivered to those who need them most.