Virtual Care can significantly impact your business’ bottom line. Check out this article to find out how.
Aug 29, 2018
Virtual Care can significantly impact your business’ bottom line. Check out this article to find out how.
The benefits of virtual care for clients are often the first positives to come to mind during discussions of telehealth. These benefits can include the ability for clients to attend their appointments from home, easier access to care on sick days, and increased convenience for those with busy schedules. Despite the focus on the benefits for clients, healthcare providers can also benefit from incorporating virtual care into their practices. While providers can experience similar benefits to their clients in that they are able to conduct appointments remotely, there is also potential for significant return on investment (ROI). ROI measures the gain or loss generated by an investment, relative to the amount of money invested, and can be thought of as “the bang for your buck”. There are two ways in which telehealth measures can increase your practice’s ROI. Firstly, telehealth can reduce overall business costs. Secondly, telehealth has the potential to increase practice revenue.
Virtual Care and No-Show Rates
One of the most obvious ways in which virtual care can save money is by decreasing the no-show rate, or the number of clients who do not show up for their appointments. Mental health counselling is one area of healthcare which experiences significant no-show rates. A study conducted at a community mental health team in North London, UK, as part of the national program called Listening into Action in the Trust found that 10-20% of mental health appointments are no-shows, with the exact number varying based on the type of counselling. Therapists typically charge between $75 and $150 per session, which is lost money when that session is cancelled. When a client does not show up for an appointment, the provider misses out on making money for that session. No-show fees are often not the full cost of the appointment, and are also difficult to obtain (especially from new clients), meaning that the provider often does not receive any compensation for their time. Virtual care offers a convenient solution to this no-show problem, by allowing clients to attend appointments remotely. This option is perfect for clients who have busy work schedules and would like to see their provider while at the office, or those who are feeling unwell and are unable to leave the house. Virtual care can also improve providers’ ability to deal with no-show appointments by allowing clients to enter payment information online, meaning that the provider can easily collect fees without repeatedly asking clients for payment.
Working Remotely Using Virtual Care Tools
Virtual care also saves money by allowing providers to work remotely, without travelling into the office or to client’s homes, and sometimes removing the need for an office space altogether. Not needing to travel into an office is especially helpful for providers who work far away, as working from home saves money on gas or public transit. Healthcare providers who make home visits to their clients also incur significant travel costs, depending on the distance and frequency of visits. Conducting these appointments through a secure video platform allows for the same standard of care, without the need to travel. Some providers who work with OnCall Health have even moved their practices online entirely, saving a large amount of money on rent. Operating an online practice can expand a provider’s practice, depending on the type of practice one has. Certain types of care do not require any in-person appointments, such as CBT and most types of counselling. Providers who do decide to operate a practice online entirely can save a large amount of money by not renting additional office space.
How Online Tools Can Increase Practice Efficiency
Telehealth also has the potential to directly increase revenue. Offering online appointments allows providers to see more clients in a day through increased convenience and automated administrative tasks. For large clinics, better staff utilization means that staff can be distributed in a way that maximizes the number of appointments. For example, a client with a tight schedule can select from multiple providers to ensure they book an appointment that fits into their schedule. Smaller practices also use virtual care to improve their efficiency by increasing patient flow. Providers can see more patients in a day when appointment are easy for clients to request and access; waiting time drops significantly.
The ability to see appointment notes and history in one convenient platform keeps providers organized and on schedule. In terms of in-person appointments, providers who experience a large number of no-shows will have large gaps in their schedule that are difficult to fill. Offering remote appointments means that providers with busy practices are able to keep queues of clients who have requested the same time slot, and in the event of a cancellation, can quickly contact the next client and conduct an appointment with minimal effort. In this way, providers can recapture billable time for their practice, and increase revenue.
Enhancing the Patient Experience with Virtual Care
Online appointments should serve as another option to enhance the standard patient experience, and not necessarily replace all in-person visits. In this way, providers can offer increased access and ease of care to their clients. For example, offering busy clients the option to attend online appointments can assist clients who might otherwise feel they cannot dedicate enough time to therapy to make it worth their while. Many therapists work with clients who have mental health issues which impede their ability to attend in-person therapy sessions. Clients who are offered the option to see their therapist from a comfortable space, like their home, may be more likely to continue therapy if they otherwise would be prevented from attending appointments due to mental health issues. In addition, clients who have moved away from their healthcare provider, but would like to continue seeing them, are able to maintain that relationship through virtual care. Client satisfaction and the accessibility of care can be maintained and improved with virtual care, which in turn can increase revenue.
Using Virtual Care to Attract New Clients
A final way in which telehealth increases revenue is by attracting new clients to a practice. Right now, virtual care serves as a competitive edge over other practices. A June 2017 survey from Washington showed that 77% of patients want access to virtual care. “‘Clearly consumers are not only becoming aware of telemedicine but starting to demand access to it,’ said American Telemedicine Association CEO Jonathan D. Linkous. ‘It is becoming a part of the standard of care that should be made available throughout the country’”. Data from April 2017 shows that in outpatient settings, 44.9% of providers employ telemedicine models. Provider adoption of telehealth tools is lagging behind consumer demand, indicating that practices which use such tools have a competitive edge over practices that do not. It is also becoming increasingly important for healthcare providers to cater to the needs of the market. A recent HealthTech article notes that millennials are now the largest group in the US and its workforce and are also the group most enthusiastic about telehealth. Healthcare organizations should expect increasing requests for virtual care options as millennials age and require more care. Virtual care will be a standard part of practices in the future, and will be necessary to stay competitive and meet the needs of consumers.
The OnCall Health Platform
The OnCall Health platform enables providers to have access to these key features, and more. One OnCall user said, “OnCall appeared as a service and resource I could offer to clients in my practice. I had practiced trauma therapy using EMDR Therapy over the past five years with very positive outcomes and results experienced and reported by the clients served. OnCall provided the same level of access and security, with a full range of administrative tools and resources for the therapist. The client is the beneficiary of the use of OnCall and reduced the number of postponed sessions and no-shows”. Clients and providers can benefit from having an accessible and convenient way to attend and host appointments.
How One Hospital is Using Virtual Care Tools
Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) is currently implementing various virtual care options in order to better serve its patients. Adam Licurse, MD, and the Medical Director for Telehealth at BWH sums up the benefits of telehealth: “Moreover, we believe that by reducing no-shows and increasing the number of patients who engage with their doctor, we can improve quality and help prevent costly downstream events, such as hospital admissions or readmissions. Finally, as we focus our energy on provider burnout, we hope that virtual care will allow for more-flexible provider schedules over time, permitting clinicians to provide some care from outside their practices if they wish”. Licurse touches on several of the benefits of virtual care that lead to an increase in ROI: reducing no-shows, improving efficiency, and cutting out the need for travel. While he is speaking from a client’s point of view in this situation, many factors of virtual care simultaneously benefit the client and provider, meaning that its implementation can be a win-win situation.
A Brief Recap
To recap, there are two main ways in which virtual care is able to increase practice ROI: saving money and increasing revenue. Virtual care primarily saves money through reducing the number of no-shows. It provides options for clients to attend their appointments from wherever they are most comfortable – whether that is at home, during a period of sickness or mental distress, or at the office on a busy day. When a client cancels an appointment, the provider must forgo the money that would be made during that session; even if they do charge a no-show fee, it is often not the full amount. By reducing the number of no-shows, virtual care saves providers money that would otherwise be lost. Virtual care also saves money for providers by allowing them to work remotely, which is especially helpful for those who live far away or make home visits to their clients. For some providers, virtual care provides the option to operate solely online, removing any rent or building costs. Therefore, virtual care can increase practice ROI by saving money and reducing costs.
Virtual care also has the potential to directly increase revenue. It improves practice efficiency through better allocation of staff, allowing for more appointments in a day and quick, easy communication with clients. In the event of a no-show, providers can notify clients that a spot has opened up and conduct a remote appointment with no need for the client to travel. Virtual care can keep current clients happy, because it provides them with the option to attend appointments from the location that is most convenient. For example, providers may see clients suffering from mental illnesses that may prevent them from leaving the house; offering remote appointments means that clients who might otherwise stop attending therapy or counselling can continue to see their therapist or counsellor. As well, clients who move far away may continue to see their current healthcare provider if they are given the option of video appointments. Virtual care may also bring in new clients, further increasing practice revenue. Data continually shows that consumers are interested in telehealth measures, yet the provider adoption rate lags behind, meaning that telehealth is a competitive advantage. Millennials are especially interested in virtual care, and as they are a growing segment of the population, it is important for practices to recognize their needs. Doing so will attract new clients and increase practice revenue.
In conclusion, the advantages of virtual care can be seen in many different areas, simultaneously benefitting client and provider. Healthcare providers need to consider the revenue of their practices, and we can see that virtual care has the potential for significant practice ROI.