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Why Virtual Care is Key to Health Systems Long-Term Business Strategy
Catherine Murphy, Chief Operating Officer at Zipnosis

Over the past year, the shortcomings and gaps in healthcare have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The patient and provider experience (and their respective preferences) in care delivery have been no exception to the industry’s shortcomings. 

Providers and patients are looking for more convenient, efficient solutions to simplify the giving and receiving of care. Providers want more time back for face-to-face care with their patients, and patients want more affordable, convenient ways to receive care—whether that be in-person, or virtually. 

This year established for the mainstream that virtual care will play a central role in healthcare as we move out of the dire straits of 2020 and early 2021. Over the last year, we’ve noticed some trends related to revenue and patient acquisition that virtual care has impacted. 

Now more than ever, patients are taking the driver’s seat when it comes to their care. They are raising their expectations in terms of what they consider a good experience, including starting to compare their healthcare experience to other industries like banking, travel, and online shopping.   Health systems that choose to forego patient-centric virtual care solutions will lose patients (and significant revenue) to direct-to-consumer platforms and other systems that have invested in virtual care.  To that end, here are some key drivers health systems should be considering when it comes to implementing or refining an existing, long-term virtual care strategy. 

Virtual care drives new patient acquisition 

76 percent of consumers are interested in using virtual care going forward, compared to just 11 percent in 2019. 

Furthermore, in reviewing the virtual visits of one health system partner, 40 percent were found to be net-new patients—proving that virtual care has the power to connect patients (who may otherwise avoid care) with health systems in their area. 

Like any other consumer, a positive experience can lead to a repeat visit in the future and this is especially true in healthcare. Health systems that offer virtual visits are now 276 percent more likely to convert new patients than systems that don’t offer virtual care at all. Health systems with an established Digital Front Door solution capture more patients and retain those newly acquired patients at a significantly higher rate than health systems without virtual care. 

Virtual care isn’t here to replace the in-person experience. Instead, it’s giving all patients, existing or new, a more convenient (and oftentimes more appropriate) option for accessing care within your system.

Efficiency doesn’t just benefit patients and providers—it improves load management

Load management is crucial to a health system’s clinical efficiency because while an educated estimate can be made, an exact prediction for demand is impossible. 

When load management is done right, it allows health systems to balance the work between providers that might have extra capacity in one facility, with patients that are overwhelming another facility. This is where virtual care can really be a powerful tool to help balance patient demand and load across a health system. 

What we have experienced with COVID-19 is a classic case of load management in action. Providers weren’t able to come into their traditional in-clinic care setting, and patients weren’t comfortable going into the clinic to receive care.  Further, for safety reasons, Health systems did not want patients coming into clinics unless they absolutely needed in person care.  This created the perfect storm of supply at one specific site, not meeting the demand.  

In these cases, our health system partners saw firsthand how virtual care could help meet patient demand.  With virtual care and load management, health systems are able to provide care to patients in-person or virtually—while also guaranteeing provider efficiency isn’t limited to their physical location.

Virtual care is more than urgent care

2020 virtual care visits rose by more than 780 percent over 2019—but it wasn’t just for visits related to COVID-19. Excluding COVID-19 visits, we still saw virtual care utilization increase up to 415 percent.

COVID-19 has proven the value of multi-modal virtual care and its ability to simply, safely, and efficiently treat patients. This same model of care can, and had been throughout the pandemic, applied to numerous clinical specialties. 

One area that we’ve seen significant traction in virtual care is behavioral health. Experts have been referring to the behavioral health crisis as the “silent pandemic”. The demand for behavioral health resources is soaring and will continue to be a critical need. Virtual care has the power to make these resources affordable, efficient, and accessible to patients. 

As health systems plan for a post-pandemic world, virtual care will continue to remain an essential tool in their toolbox. Virtual visits and expanding virtual services has been proven to make healthcare more affordable, accessible, and efficient. Current times and into the next few years will prove to be some of the most innovative in healthcare history. 


About Catherine Murphy

Catherine Murphy has been with Zipnosis since 2017. As Chief Operating Officer, Catherine has responsibility for Customer Success, Professional Services, Product, and Engineering. She believes strongly in improving the access and affordability of healthcare, so she gets great energy from helping Zipnosis customers launch and realize their virtual care strategies. Prior to joining Zipnosis, Catherine was at Surescripts and had responsibility for EMR and health technology customers as well as launching Surescripts Long Term and Post-Acute Care market.  Her background also includes roles at UnitedHealth Group, Lawson Software (now Infor), and techies.com.


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