A Retrospective on Virtual Care via the Seattle Chamber of Commerce’s Executive Speaker Series

By Caitlin Morrison, Senior Strategist

Earlier this month, Smashing representatives attended the Seattle Chamber of Commerce’s Executive Speaker Series on Virtual Care. At the event Jaja Okigwe, President and CEO of First Choice Health, moderated a panel of leaders from Virginia Mason, Kaiser Permanente, Premera Blue Cross, and 98point6. The panel discussed the virtual care services they currently offer, the role of the Washington State Telehealth Collaborative, and the future implications of virtual care.

Virtual care holds the promise of increased access at a lower cost. In order to investigate these claims, healthcare organizations are experimenting with virtual care services. Kaiser Permanente Washington is giving members the opportunity to virtually chat with a medical provider or have video consultations. 98point6 is offering on-demand chat with primary care providers who can diagnose conditions, write prescriptions, and create patient care plans. This service can be accessed through a personal or employer plan. These are two of the services the panel described and both are available in Washington state.


The challenge

The panelists discussed that despite the development of virtual services, there is still a dominant skepticism about the effectiveness of the service. Many providers don’t trust the ability to diagnose a patient when they are not in the same room, or worry that virtual care will change the sacred provider-patient relationship. Patients are hesitant to use services due to questions of security and quality of service. Insurance companies and providers are trying to figure out how to charge for these services and the boundary for “appropriate event for virtual care” is still being defined.


The opportunity

There is an opportunity for innovators to overcome these barriers and create a virtual care experience that empowers both providers and patients, and delivers on the promise of improved access and at cost.

With that, here are our 3 key recommendations for virtual care innovation:


1. Prioritize Design

Developing the technology for virtual care doesn’t mean that people will use it. Healthcare has a history of investing in expensive technology that doesn’t deliver on promise, or creates additional headaches. Think of the development and adoption of patient portals for example. In order to overcome the skepticism and hesitancy around virtual care, companies need to prioritize delivering a delightful customer experience, not just a satisfying patient experience.


2. Design for the Patient and the Provider

Provider satisfaction is directly linked to patient health outcomes. So when virtual care hints at the promise of 24/7 access, organizations need to design an experience that considers the impact on providers. Incorporating providers into the design process and testing prototypes with these professionals, just as you would with patients, will help to ensure a successful adoption and increase in effectiveness.


3. Build for Trust

Trust needs to be an integral part of designing virtual care. Patients, providers and healthcare organizations need to trust the technology and have confidence in its implementation before they use it. We believe that well-designed, technology-driven interventions can actually help build trust and enhance human connection.


Virtual care is an exciting space for innovation. There are barriers that need to be overcome, but a strategic approach to innovation will help organizations develop effective experiences. The panelists noted that emerging technologies could be a major area of virtual care development, including voice interfaces (like Alexa), and remote monitoring for chronic conditions. With a strategic approach to design, virtual care will deliver on the promise of quality healthcare in the digital space.

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