The healthcare landscape continues to shift and change as new technologies and care models are introduced to the industry. One of the major shifts in the last decade was the introduction of virtual care, which proved to reduce the accessibility issues traditional, in-person care presented. However, there are still many instances where in-person care is essential during a patient’s care journey. That’s why many healthcare professionals and patients have gravitated towards a hybrid care model.
When asked about the health model, virtual care expert and OpenLoop CMO Dr. Laura Purdy said, “I’m obsessed with hybrid care. The reason why I’m obsessed with it for everyone, everywhere, all the time is because that’s the future.”
Hybrid care merges traditional care models with the versatility of virtual care – allowing healthcare providers to leverage the best of both models and approach patient care more holistically. The following are 5 ways hybrid care resolves some of the roadblocks presented by each type of care alone and why, together, they’re the future of healthcare.
1. Increased access to care
Hybrid care can improve access to healthcare services, especially for individuals living in rural or underserved areas. This healthcare model breaks down geographical barriers by offering virtual consultations when in-person visits are not necessary. Telehealth is a great tool for triaging and collecting any required patient data prior to an official visit.
Reduced transportation needs
This allows patients living in remote, rural areas or those with limited transportation to connect with healthcare professionals by removing the need for unnecessary travel. By eliminating these barriers to care, telehealth is making it easier for patients to take charge and seek medical help the minute they need it.
For certain populations, like the elderly and those living with chronic conditions, more frequent care is needed. The excessive travel required to get to these in-person visits can put unneeded stress on their bodies and become burdensome for their caregivers. Telehealth visits allow them to stay on top of their treatments and follow-ups without ever having to leave home.
Access to specialists
Hybrid care also increases patient access to specialists, as they can be limited, especially in rural areas. This access to specialized expertise ensures that patients receive accurate diagnoses and appropriate treatment plans for their condition. By addressing geological barriers to access and leveraging technology, hybrid care has the potential to bring medical care closer to individuals, ultimately improving health outcomes and reducing disparities in healthcare access.
2. Address provider shortages
Hybrid care can also help alleviate the shortage of healthcare professionals. This model enables providers to extend their reach through synchronous and asynchronous telehealth consultations, allowing them to expand their patient pool and care for more patients.
Telehealth appointments are also inherently flexible, allowing providers to fully utilize their time and schedule visits accordingly. This flexibility can help reduce the risk of clinician burnout by giving providers the freedom to choose their schedules.
Better care coordination
Hybrid healthcare also encourages easier cross-collaboration and care coordination among providers, allowing them to share insights and expertise. This collaborative approach can increase patients’ access to expert care and improve their health outcomes.
Increased provider access for rural clinics and hospitals
For many rural or remote healthcare centers, it’s difficult to hire in-house specialists due to limited revenue and funding, as well as the geography. This lack of medical professionals often results in these facilities having to transfer patients to another that has the resources they need—often farther away. Remote clinics and hospitals can tap into the vast clinician networks available through telehealth in order to access the specialized knowledge they need.
3. Decrease healthcare costs
For both patients and healthcare organizations, hybrid care can be more cost-effective than in-person visits alone. Health systems can optimize resource allocation by efficiently using healthcare providers’ time and reducing the overhead costs associated with brick-and-mortar facilities.
Virtual consultations and triage help distribute the appropriate level of care for each patient, reducing the burden on highly specialized providers and making the most of their expertise. With hybrid care, there is also a reduced administrative cost since paperwork can be easily streamlined and processes automated through electronic health records and digital communication tools.
Hybrid care can also save organizations on infrastructure costs. Since in-person visits are limited, there is less of a need for large physical facilities and the resources to run them. This is particularly beneficial in regions with limited resources or where constructing new healthcare facilities is expensive.
Patients can also save on healthcare costs with hybrid care by taking non-emergency consultations and follow-up appointments via telehealth. As virtual visits are typically less expensive than in-person visits.
Many hybrid models are also built with the intention of affordability and transparency, so patients know exactly how much is coming out of their pocket. For example, Mako’s test-to-treat model offers a fully transparent upfront cash price bundle to get your test result and your medical consultation. MakoRx also operates fully on this transparent cash price model, which makes healthcare more accessible for those without health insurance.
4. Excessive wait times
Traditional healthcare settings often involve a lot of waiting around. Specific types of hybrid care are being designed with the intention of cutting down on this excessive waiting by streamlining processes and eliminating wasted time. The test-to-treat model is a prime example of how hybrid works to reduce excessive waiting. With MakoRx’s test-to-treat model, patients can receive all the care they need in a single pharmacy visit. By booking an appointment online, going straight to the pharmacy, getting tested, having a consultation then walking out with their prescription – there is no need to wait around at urgent care.
5. Continuity of care
Hybrid care can promote better continuity of care by allowing patients to maintain a relationship with their primary healthcare providers even when physical visits are not possible. This continuity ensures that patients receive consistent care regardless of their preferred mode of interaction or changes in circumstances.
Hybrid care also enables consistent communication between patients and providers. Patients can ask questions, provide updates on their health and receive guidance through virtual channels, reducing the likelihood of misunderstandings or missed appointments.
Healthcare technology, like remote patient monitoring (RPM) devices, can also be used to support a more holistic care approach with the asynchronous transfer of real-time patient data. Both health systems and providers are seeing the benefits of continuous monitoring in preventative medicine and early intervention. This increase in patient data also allows their provider to have a more complete patient health map, allowing them to spot potential risk factors, order necessary tests, and change treatment in real-time.
Furthering the future of healthcare
There is no doubt that hybrid care emerges as a practical solution with far-reaching benefits. Its promise of improved access, eased provider shortages, lowered costs, reduced wait times and better continuity of care is a compelling narrative for the future of healthcare. Hybrid care is a practical way to bridge healthcare gaps and enhance the patient experience. By combining tradition and innovation, it shapes a path that’s both attainable and transformative.