Posted On January 16, 2023
BLOG: A Clinic That’s a Triple Threat: High-Quality, High Engagement, High Satisfaction
By Brad Younggren, Chief Medical Officer and President at 98point6
There exists an assumption amongst some that virtual care solely requires adding a screen between patients and providers. When we built the 98point6 clinic, we saw an opportunity to craft a new, text-forward care model. Supporting the development of relationships and conversation between provider and patient with purpose-built technology, virtual care can be an important new channel of patient engagement and a meaningful way to extend care delivered in brick-and-mortar sites.
It seems that we are at yet another inflection point. Out of necessity, virtual care access was propelled to the mainstream as a stopgap during the pandemic. After a few years of utilization and positive consumer sentiment toward telemedicine, it’s time to move the discussion beyond access and convenience toward issues of quality and integration. It’s time to find the long-term fit for digital care in the healthcare ecosystem. The benefits of a well-placed digital care model (productivity, quality, costs, and engagement) are compelling but only attainable if the right path is taken and the model solves problems vexing the organizations and teams charged with delivering care. An investment is worthwhile if it helps today and lays a foundation for further growth and transformation.
98point6 has been refining its digital care model for the last seven years – operating an on-demand 24/7 clinic and fine-tuning the core technology that supports it. Our focus is on quality and the experience. We work toward improving consistency and boosting productivity. We augment care delivery with automation, diagnostic support, and administrative tools that increase transparency, limit variability, reduce cognitive load, and alleviate fatigue and burnout. The care team drives every encounter, and the technology exists to support them before, during, and after each visit.
There is no doubt that digital health has evolved, but even with an increase in utilization and broader consumer acceptance, we still find ourselves dispelling common assumptions like:
- “Older adults won’t use virtual care.”
- About 20% of our patients are over the age of 50.
- “Patients will be dissatisfied if they don’t get a prescription.”
- Only 43% of visits result in a prescription, and 90% of our patients are happy with their visit and would come again.
- “Patients want to talk to their doctor and won’t be comfortable with a team.”
- Many of our patients have a doctor but use our clinic for on-demand access and to augment the care they get from their PCP.
- “You have to look at a patient to understand their disposition and practice medicine.”
- Our internal studies show that a preference for video over text doesn’t exist. In fact, 93% of visits to our clinic are resolved through text. Only a minimal number of visits use video, and most of these are due to local regulations that require video to start a virtual visit. Most patients prefer to return to text once validation is complete.
- “Virtual care or asynchronous care doesn’t work because it hits an exit point the majority of the time.”
- Our clinic treated over 650 unique conditions and over 2200 ICD-10 codes in 2021 with a 93% resolution rate
We have also learned a few things about human behavior–provider and patient–that informs how we develop our clinic workflows and innovate with technology. Here are just a few of the lessons we’ve learned:
- Consumer expectations shaped by internet search behaviors and on-demand consumption. To reduce friction and get more people engaged with their health, we removed barriers. We created an experience that uses the most common and preferred form of communication: a simple text-based messaging app with which they can start a visit anytime with just a tap.
- To engage the patient, you have to serve them holistically. The more you erase the lines between conditions and offer a clear path from physical health to mental wellness, for example, the better the experience and outcomes will be both in the short and long term.
- Patients conflate experience and quality. A patient defines quality by evaluating their experience. Sometimes patient expectations can conflict with a clinical best practice. These encounters, though, are opportunities for listening and sharing between patients and providers.
Maybe I’m a little biased, but I believe a virtual clinic can be a triple threat. It can deliver high-quality care, increase consumer engagement, and yield high satisfaction for both the doctor and the patient. It comes down to finding where the digital clinic fits, how it wraps around existing workflows and helps to define new ones, and whether it can successfully extend and augment the care already happening in the doctor’s office, the walk-in clinic, or the hospital.
Virtual care will never replace most of healthcare, but it has a significant role to play in helping to share the burden of care with brick-and-mortar healthcare systems, help control costs and ensure the right care occurs at the right location. It can open new channels of engagement while at the same time giving doctors and clinicians a new platform from which they can do more with the aid of technology and the support of a community.
Learn more about virtual primary care by visiting the 98point6 Team at ATA2023, Booth #1103.
Brad Younggren, MD, is the chief medical officer and president, care innovation, at 98point6. He brings nearly 20 years of experience working as a physician, most recently serving as chief medical officer at Cue. He also served as chief medical officer at Shift Labs and Mobisante. Brad still practices as an emergency physician at EvergreenHealth and is medical director of emergency preparedness, trauma and urgent care. He has earned both a Bronze Star and the Combat Medic Badge for his service in Iraq as a United States Army physician.