If your first virtual doctor’s visit happened during the pandemic, you're in good company. In April 2020, the use of virtual doctor visits skyrocketed to a staggering 78 times what it was just two months prior, as reported by McKinsey & Company. Even more strikingly, 40 percent of the respondents in this study said they planned to continue using virtual doctor visits post-COVID-19. This surge, compared to the pre-pandemic figure of merely 11 percent, is a testament to virtual care's transformative impact on healthcare.
Beyond its initial evolution, virtual care is now at the forefront of another rapid transformation, thanks to advances in artificial intelligence (AI). The fusion of AI with virtual care is reshaping the healthcare landscape again, ushering in a host of benefits for both patients and healthcare providers.
AI: From Diagnostics to Workflow
At its core, AI can be defined as computer systems that emulate human intelligence to perform tasks that typically require human cognition. More specifically in healthcare, AI can serve a multitude of different functions, with the potential to shake up diagnostics, recommend treatments, and personalize patient care.
One of the current challenges in healthcare has been transitioning from traditional paper-based systems. Many healthcare organizations still grapple with the legacy of manual, handwritten patient health records and inefficient processes. AI has played a pivotal role in automating these processes, streamlining data management through electronic health records (EHRs) and improving collaboration among healthcare providers.
AI also serves as a valuable tool for care team members by providing data-driven insights and assistance in their decision-making processes. With this information, healthcare professionals can better identify trends and make more informed choices, ultimately enhancing the quality of patient care.
However, the true magic lies in AI-driven algorithms, which excel at analyzing complex medical data. Crunching large data sets allows us to uncover hidden patterns and correlations, leading to earlier disease detection and more effective treatments. In radiology, for example, AI tools can spot tumors and categorize skin anomalies with remarkable accuracy. Post-diagnosis, AI can offer real-time insights to clinicians, guiding them in making data-driven decisions and optimizing care pathways.
How AI is Transforming Virtual Care
AI's multifaceted capabilities are not only transforming the broader healthcare landscape but are also ushering in a new era of virtual care. These innovations are driven by AI's potential to provide more personalized, efficient, and engaging patient experiences. Some key ways AI is revolutionizing virtual care include:
- AI-Driven Telemedicine Platforms. AI-powered chatbots are increasingly being employed to conduct initial patient assessments. Take, for instance, Google's Med-PaLM 2, an AI tool specifically designed to address medical inquiries. According to The Wall Street Journal, this technology has been under testing at the Mayo Clinic research hospital since April. While chatbots aren't intended to replace human healthcare providers, they play a valuable role in efficiently gathering patient information and prioritizing cases. This significantly enhances the speed and accuracy of triage, which is particularly beneficial in situations where the local healthcare system might be grappling with an exceptionally high volume of patients seeking care.
- Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM). AI-powered wearables allow care healthcare providers to continuously track vital signs like heart rate, respiration rate, and temperature — and receive real-time alerts if any parameters go outside safe ranges. The approach is tailored for each patient based on their specific condition. This enables proactive care, helping prevent complications and improving outcomes.
Remote blood pressure monitoring, for example, can leverage AI to identify the best times and ways of reaching out to a patient and using personalized content and engagement tactics to engage the patient.
- Data Organization and Predictive Analytics. AI efficiently organizes and analyzes vast amounts of data generated during virtual patient interactions. This data can be used to improve care delivery, optimize workflows, and identify trends for future healthcare strategies.
For example, AI can help identify at-risk patients, analyzing various data points to assess the likelihood of deterioration. This early identification helps clinicians intervene before a situation becomes critical, improving patient outcomes.
- Personalized Care Pathways. AI can create individualized healthcare programs tailored to an individual's needs and health context. As patients progress, their care plan adapts in real time, reflecting their changing requirements.
- Patient Engagement. Keeping patients active in managing their own health is essential for successful virtual care. Actively involved patients tend to experience shorter hospitalizations, better overall outcomes, and an enhanced quality of life, leading to cost savings and decreased medical errors. To that end, AI tools can use a variety of different behavioral engagement strategies, as appropriate, to captivate and motivate patients. These tactics enhance adherence, educate patients about their conditions, and foster healthier habits.
Incorporating AI into virtual care has unveiled a realm of possibilities, with a focus on improved patient outcomes and reduced healthcare costs. As AI technology continues to evolve, the future of healthcare is set to be a landscape marked by enhanced patient-centric experiences and a higher level of efficiency and effectiveness in virtual care.
While AI cannot replace the experience and knowledge of healthcare experts who play a crucial role in making important health decisions, it is already serving as a valuable tool to support doctors and other providers. Looking ahead, the future of virtual care with AI appears bright, with ongoing advancements in AI technologies on the horizon.
By tackling the biggest challenges healthcare providers face in virtual care, Veta Health's all-in-one solution offers a seamless, personalized approach that prioritizes unique patient care pathways, streamlines workflows, and enhances patient engagement. If you're interested in discovering how partnering with Veta Health can elevate your virtual care capabilities, get in touch with us today.