At Modality Systems, I've been managing our virtual consultation service, OneConsultation, since 2018, and whilst before the Covid-19 pandemic, video consultations and telemedicine were used in specific services and use cases, it was never considered a realistic alternative way of delivering healthcare services for the masses.
Virtual consultations gain traction
The crisis has brought necessity, innovation, and a complete change of thinking – which I think is here to stay.
And it must be here to stay. Offering virtual consultations, through Microsoft Teams – or any vendor for that matter – is crucial for a number of reasons. And none of them are related to the pandemic.
Virtual consultations solve the following problems:
- Lack of patient mobility
- No access to transport
- Fear of hospitals
- Fear of infection
- Unable to take time off from work
Initiatives from vendors have certainly helped.
Many UK National Health Service (NHS) trusts have adopted Teams, for instance, thanks to the offer from Microsoft enabling NHS staff to use Teams for free during the Coronavirus outbreak.
This has enabled staff and patients to get used to video calls internally whilst working from home which has made the adoption of virtual consultations a lot quicker.
What is a virtual consultation?
You might also hear virtual consultations referred to as remote consultations or online consultations. Ultimately, these are all the same.
Virtual consultations provide healthcare providers with an alternate method of diagnosing and treating patients. By switching to virtual consultations, clinicians, doctors, and patients benefit from accessibility improvements, fewer cancellations, and faster appointments.
Most virtual consultation systems need tailoring for the specific needs of the healthcare sector. Customisation can assist with the fact that patients are often vulnerable and struggle with technology.
Healthcare appointments rarely run to time so being able to offer a simple waiting room experience rather than rearranging email-based calendar appointments has proven beneficial to us.
Clinicians can simplify the join experience even further by sending patients a SMS message contain a link directly to the consultation. They just then tap that link to join.
Most consultations are also one-to-one and highly confidential. Security is therefore vital, as is the ability for healthcare providers to connect with patients from their smartphone, laptop, or tablet with just one click.
Rapid adoption of virtual consultations
Of course, we only have the stats available from our own virtual consultation software, OneConsultation.
When you think about how many telehealth platforms exist, scaling our numbers to match the number of platforms is quite extraordinary.
As of the end of August 2020, OneConsultation had supported over 100,000 different consultations across 541 different services.
This amassed to 36,000+ hours of video. The average call length being around 22 minutes.
The average length of an in-person appointment is only 17 minutes. So, the intangible benefits of more and better patient-doctor time must be mentioned too.
We discuss at length the benefits of virtual consultations with all our clients. But, the most important factor is understanding how virtual consultations and virtual clinics benefit patients.
What happens next?
We continue to push and promote virtual consultations in a market heavily dominated by telemedicine platforms that don’t offer the functionality of Microsoft Teams.
While we’ve seen tremendous uptake on our virtual consultation service, the healthcare world is full of providers struggling to offer (or not able to offer) a virtual alternative to an in-person appointment.
We see no reason healthcare providers - and healthcare patients – shouldn’t have access to the same mobility and productivity benefits that a desk worker has.
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