In this Telehealth Feature Series, we’re going to cover the long list of potential telehealth features available today. As you’re considering your own approach to telehealth, we will provide you a look at all the possible features telehealth companies are offering on the market. Plus, we’ll offer our insight into the nuances of each feature so you can select the right telehealth company or companies you use. Not all telehealth is created equal, so taking the time to understand all the possible features and options is worth the effort.
The next feature we’re going to cover is Scheduled and On-demand Encounters.
If you remember that I created this list of telehealth features based on a list from Jim Tate. I found it fascinating that he thought this was important enough to add on-demand encounters to the list. We all know scheduled video encounters are important and essential, but I’m not sure I would have considered the on-demand feature as important. For me, I can schedule an immediate appointment which is basically an on-demand encounter, no?
The problem with this idea is that it comes from a very patient visit centric perspective. Many in the world of telehealth are calling for a change in how we think about our interaction with patients. That requires a different way of thinking that goes beyond the episodic care we’ve provided traditionally.
As we evolve our way of thinking about care, it’s clear why an on-demand encounter would be extremely valuable. If a patient messages you with a major issue you want to evaluate, that may require a clinician or other caregiver to reach out on demand to be able to evaluate and triage the problem. In some cases, it may just be answering a simple question that will save the patient a full visit and ensure they’re following their care plan. These are high value conversations for the patient and the health system as a whole. We’re still figuring out how to pay for them, but it illustrates why an on-demand video visit might be useful.
What’s interesting about the on demand encounter is that it likely would evolve from some other sort of communication like an asynchronous text message with the patient. If we’re sending texts to each other about an issue, it makes sense to escalate that conversation to a video visit on demand versus scheduled. I don’t expect many doctors doing on demand encounters with patients that don’t evolve from some other communication. Doing so would be like calling the patient and hoping they’ll answer the phone. They often don’t and the same is true if the patient received an unscheduled request to video visit with their doctor.
The other area where on-demand encounters works is in the hospital. This is much like the doctor dropping into the room to visit with the patient. It makes a lot of sense when on demand encounters are applied to virtual rounding or telequarantine because you have an essentially captive patient.
As I mentioned, we’re still figuring out how we’re going to pay for on demand video encounters, but I could see these growing as we continue to move towards value based care. Until then, scheduled video encounters will be the bread and butter of most telehealth systems.