Caitlin Clement|4/13/2023|3 min read

What Is Virtual-First Care and Its Benefits?

The transition to V1C models in healthcare

black female doctor on video call with black male patient

It seems like everything is at our fingertips these days, which isn’t really untrue.

Technology has made it easier for people to check off items in their to-do list in minutes what used to take them hours. The healthcare industry is no exception. While telehealth has technically been around for decades, the platforms, software and regulations needed for it to compete with in-person care are relatively new to the industry. 

The ability of virtual care to reach patients that have historically been excluded from healthcare was an early attraction for the digital health model. However, hospitals and providers quickly noticed it was a useful tool to add into their service lines. It’s cost effective, streamlines clinician workflows and prioritizes better patient outcomes.

These areas of value have now led to a full integration into virtual care, or virtual-first care, within the industry. 

What is virtual-first care (V1C)?

So, what exactly does virtual-first care mean and how is it different from just virtual care?

Virtual-first care is a care model trend where the patient's journey starts with a virtual appointment (video call, phone call, live messaging) before and instead of an in-person visit. In contrast, virtual care just refers to the use of technology to provide care. These virtual visits enable providers to better triage a patient's needs and is adopted the most in specialties that treat chronic illnesses as well as primary and urgent care.  

According to a 2022 Doximity report, these specialty areas of care include:

  • Endocrinology

  • Gastroenterology

  • Rheumatology

  • Urology

  • Nephrology

  • Cardiology

  • Otolaryngology

  • Neurology

  • Allergy and immunology

  • Hematology/oncology

  • Family medicine

  • Dermatology

  • Geriatrics

  • Pulmonology

  • Psychiatry

Providers and patients are also enjoying the convenience and affordability that comes along with virtual-first care. Certain visits like regular check-ins align well with the use of telehealth. A provider can conduct a virtual visit within the time it takes a patient to commute to the doctors office, fill out paperwork and wait in the waiting room. Additionally, virtual care removes some of the overhead costs of in-person visits. Making it a lower cost to treat for the provider, clinic, hospital, health system and their patients.

Virtual-first care enables better health equity

Telehealth as a health platform lends itself to better health equity by expanding access to medical care to typically underserved populations. These include individuals who live in rural or remote areas as well as marginalized populations. 

In addition to expanding access to healthcare, virtual-first care also allows patients access to more providers and provider types. They don’t have to settle for the closest provider if they feel their care needs are not being met. The use of telehealth in service lines also opens up the door for healthcare organizations in need of specialty physicians as a solution to staffing shortages.

Clinics and hospitals are able to access remote providers in order to fill their provider demand and meet the care needs of a patient. 

Virtual-first care increases treatment adherence 

By starting out a patient journey remotely, providers are able to remove barriers to care that are often present for in-person visits. These barriers include lack of convenience, lack of access, long commutes, wait times and more.

All of these barriers can influence how well a patient adheres to their prescribed treatment plan. For those with chronic illnesses, asynchronous devices like RPMs or RTMs can collect real-time health data securely and either send it directly to their provider or easily upload it to an EHR. 

By choosing to switch from an in-person visit to a virtual one, providers are able to monitor and adjust treatment plans thanks to a more continuous stream of health data. Also, the easy collection and tracking of data makes it easier for patients to provide that data and be a more active partner in their care.

Virtual-first care builds better patient outcomes

Building your service line to utilize a virtual consultation first (where it makes sense) can encourage more patients to seek out care because of its convenience and affordability. A patient can simply decide to seek treatment in the morning and see a doctor that afternoon without leaving their home. 

For those who can’t leave work, don’t have transportation, have mobility issues or are just unmotivated, this can make all the difference when deciding to seek care or not seek care. This switch in perspective can lead to a higher success in preventative medicine, better patient outcomes, a healthier population and a decrease in medical spending.

Additionally, because it does lend itself to better patient adherence to prescribed treatment, this can itself lead to a better overall patient outcome.  

Powering the future of virtual-first care

Now that you’re a little more familiar with virtual-first care and its potential benefits, we’d like to introduce OpenLoop and our telehealth delivery solutions. Our company excels at staying up-to-date on the latest in digital health and keeping our clients competitive in the virtual care space by scaling their telehealth operations. 

Services like our intuitive, API driven technology platform and 6000+ NCQA accredited clinician network—just to name a few—allow our clients to manage their patients and grow their patient pool nationwide.

Interested in what our services can offer your organization? Get in touch here!

Our full suite of Telehealth Support Services include: