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Buy It And Build It: The Future of Virtual Care Model Design

Jennifer Humbert
March 22, 2022
January 17, 2024

Written by Jennifer Humbert, Head of Operations

When designing virtual care programs, healthcare systems have been faced with the question of whether to “buy it” or “build it”. The decision to build internally (within a health system’s technical ecosystem) or to partner with a vendor can shape adoption from both providers and consumers, and therefore a program’s success.

Non-negotiable factors when evaluating “buy it” or “build it”

These decisions must take into account key non-negotiable factors:

  • Clearly understand the pain points you are solving for and stick to your strategy.
  • Be obsessed with the provider and consumer experience. Experience will win over function.
  • Align with the secret sauce of virtual care: access, quality, and affordability.
  • Assess for desirability and feasibility.
  • Don’t start with the tech! Let the operational workflow and experience inform the technical decisions.

Heavy reliance on technology coupled with a strong focus on consumerism adds a unique layer of complexity.

While the foundation of the non-negotiable factors has been constant in the decision-making process, the COVID-19 pandemic created an energetic shift in health systems’ virtual care strategies, demanding transitional thinking and different influencing factors in the selection process. Many health systems implemented virtual care programs, causing the competitive landscape to neutralize. What was advanced functionality transitioned to table stakes.

Provider and consumer ease of use and experience - along with adoption and acquisition strategies - becomes more important in the way we evaluate partners and vendors. As influencing factors and shifts in strategies continue, the way organizations evaluate platforms and vendors must also evolve and go deeper than a functionality grid.

Leveraging technology as a change agent to make work easier is becoming increasingly important. Health systems must orchestrate longitudinal care while designing and creating an experience for an “N” of one. Pulling the patient and provider journey maps together to create virtual care models/pathways where a patient is never discharged nor admitted is needed. Additionally, careful consideration of your virtual care teams’ expertise needs to be evaluated. As many of the strategies have accelerated, the employee skill set needs to do the same.

Vendor partnerships and the EMR support the shift from “or” to “and”.

Orchestrating care and creating seamless journey maps requires maximizing and leveraging an organization's EMR system. This is a must because the EMR allows all levels of providers to coordinate care, decrease variability, create efficiencies, and make work easier. As these layers of complexity come together, the seismic shift from buy it “or” build it to buy it “and” build it emerges. Health systems will need to leverage both vendor partnerships and the EMR in an “and” strategy to execute on:

  • Maximizing the secret sauce of virtual care to:
  • Create virtual care models - where you never discharge a patient
  • Maximize the pipeline opportunities
  • Create longitudinal relationships
  • Decreasing variability while making work more efficient
  • Ensuring outcome impacts

Don’t forget to create a supportive experience.

Designing optimal customer support processes cannot be forgotten, because irrelevant to buying or building, it will break. People (providers, care teams, or patients) are at the center of all these designs. Ensuring your consumers and providers are supported in an experience that leaves them wanting more is critical. Don’t underestimate your human resource factors, which support creating meaningful and high-quality models.

It’s important to remember that these designs are more than just technology: they’re a healthy combination of people, process, and technology. Considering new market influencing factors combined with foundational decision making, the answer to the age-old question of buy it or build has truly shifted to an “and” strategy. Health systems have key takeaways in the transition:

  • Let your strategy inform your technology.
  • EMR integration remains a must and leverage other platform enablers execute on experience and strategy.
  • Be obsessed with the journey map.
  • Evaluate your internal levels of expertise in a changing environment.

 Want to dive deeper into the buy it “and” build it model in virtual care? Jennifer Humbert, former AVP of Telemedicine at Ochsner, will be leading an invite-only webinar on March 29. If you are interested, please register here and we will be in touch should additional spaces become available.

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