“Hybrid Future” for Telehealth and In-Person Care Requires Thoughtful Integration of Technology

The pandemic impacted healthcare in countless ways—with one of the most notable being record use of telehealth. There are undeniable advantages to this type of remote healthcare, including reduced risk of disease spread, lower demand for personal protective equipment, greater accessibility to medical care and more. But despite these benefits, this new channel for health delivery will require thoughtful policies and protocols focused on preserving the physician-patient relationship.

According to Dr. Sean Kelly, chief medical officer at Imprivata, a mix of telehealth and in-person care is not only likely but also a potential means to enhance patient care. In a recent Healthcare IT News article on this “hybrid future,” he forecasts “an evolving blend of virtual and in-person care.” He explains, “Mobile devices and virtual technology will become so ingrained in healthcare that the term telehealth may disappear from our vocabularies, or at least be absorbed into the accepted vernacular as just an extension of good care.”

However, he cautions medical professionals to consider the challenges this evolution poses, citing security as a primary concern. Of similar interest is the physician-patient relationship, which can either be enhanced or diminished through this medium.

A recent article by Alexa B. Kimball and Nick Morgan, published in The Harvard Business Review, addresses key elements that may help promote connection and build trust between those who give and receive care:

  1. Communicate competence through knowledge, professional appearance (including background) and smooth technologic interface.
  2. Discuss health concerns thoroughly and logically, opting to share your computer screen when referring to documents or records.
  3. Show empathy through verbal cues, language mirroring and careful listening.
  4. Demonstrate reliability by showing up on time and having technology that works correctly.

MLMIC encourages policyholders to explore strategies that help optimize virtual encounters and establish guidelines for telehealth use, including decision-making protocols that help physicians determine when in-person visits may be preferable or necessary. See our recommendations on telehealth, including tips for patient engagement and risk-management advice