Empower doctors by putting them back in the driver’s seat through virtual care

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MedCity News

Autonomy, mastery and determination. That motivates people, says Daniel Pink in his book Drive. Great doctors are no different.

Regardless of where they are applied, autonomy, mastery, and purpose are linked. When they work in unison, the effect is palpable and powerful. Take one away and the others will soon fall apart. For many doctors, the traditional health model may have challenged these drivers, which has led to the ubiquitous burnout that we see across the industry.

Doctors are increasingly turning to virtual care as a sustainable alternative to rekindle their passion for patient care. Virtual care, when performed correctly, frees doctors from double-booked, 20-minute clinic visits and allows them to focus on the best possible care while achieving a better work-life balance.

In other words, virtual care offers a tremendous opportunity to take care of our caregivers. And when we take care of doctors, they take better care of patients.

Restoring autonomy with online private practice

Whether voluntarily or because of the current health environment, more than half of today’s doctors have lost their autonomy in providing health services. A recent report from the American Medical Association found that fewer than 50% of doctors work in private medical practices – a record-low statistic. Instead, the most common doctor status today is the “employed doctor” caring for patients in a larger corporate system.

I am the son of a doctor who started a private practice in the 1980s, and I have watched him carefully build a thriving practice for three decades that provided quality care to the people in our community. I saw him build lifelong, trusting relationships with his patients, and because of those deep connections, he was able to provide better care.

In medical practice, it is ultimately about the doctor-patient relationship. With virtual care, we now have the ability to give doctors the ability to do the same thing I taught my father to do – build a practice with patients they can take good care of, now with the convenience and benefits of a remote -Model.

Removing the geographic limitations of care opens up much more opportunities to connect patients with clinicians who are right for them. For example, imagine a doctor who is a runner and through sophisticated software on a virtual treatment platform licensed in all 50 states, the doctor can be matched with patients across the country who are also avid runners. This shared interest can enable a strong relationship that leads to an immediate relationship that is the foundation of a therapeutic doctor-patient relationship. Patients can have access to a clinician who is literally walking in their shoes. This technological capability is available today.

The best virtual care gives doctors the ability to design their practice based on their knowledge and best skills. And giving doctors the autonomy and freedom of choice in the practice of their art is an effective way to keep them engaged and satisfied in their careers.

Mastering proactive care approaches

Once doctors have the autonomy to practice medicine in a more efficient and effective system based on technology and innovative processes, they will have more time for their patients, who need their knowledge and expertise most. When you think of virtual nursing, the first thing that comes to mind is usually a doctor calling you or making a video call. However, best practice approaches to digital health are much more than that, and include several other modalities for asynchronous care for people. For example, adaptive questionnaires and remote patient monitoring with digital, networked devices are just two of the many tools doctors use to get a more complete picture of their patients. From this standpoint, doctors can correct behaviors before they lead to significant health problems.

By using all of these different modalities, we can free up doctors’ time for things that didn’t necessarily require a visit in order to really focus on the conditions that call for a deeper dive. Take, for example, a patient with high blood pressure who has visited his doctor several times a year for a quick check-up in the past. The virtual care model allows us to replace these limited snapshots with a digital health solution that gives the doctor real-time access to that patient’s ambulatory blood pressure monitor at home. Then we can use telemedicine visits to review and interpret the data from the device and work with the patient to control their lifestyle – a much more masterful, proactive approach.

In this case, not only do patient outcomes improve, but ultimately we can replace that 30-minute in-person visit for high blood pressure with a patient who has a problem that needs to be seen in person or needs intervention.

Expansion of access to targeted, high-quality care

Ultimately, medical practice is all about maintaining people’s health through strong doctor-patient relationships. The main benefit of virtual care for doctors and patients is that it expands access to these relationships and quality healthcare.

Recently, a report from the National Academy of Medicine called for “all people should have the opportunity to have a single source of primary care,” and suggested that virtual care could help us get there. Virtual care offers a convenient way of maintaining a healthy and consistent relationship with a trained doctor, especially for the accessibility of patients in rural areas or patients who are constantly on the move.

People are already visiting the internet for health information. So why not meet them where they are? The technology gives doctors the ability to involve even more patients and ensure they don’t fall through the cracks of the inpatient system. We no longer have to for patients to come to us. We can go to them and get them on the right path, be it in person or virtually.

Soon there will come a time when we don’t refer to digital modalities as “virtual care”. It’ll just be medical care. The sooner we adopt digital health technologies and modernize health care, the sooner we can alleviate burnout and our society will have access to healthcare professionals to help them care for their patients.

Photo: elenabs, Getty Images

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