By: Lewis Levy, MD, FACP, Chief Medical Officer, Teladoc
Over the past five years, there have been many great changes in medicine - targeted biologics, expanded minimally invasive surgical procedures, meaningful interventions for difficult to treat neurologic conditions. Yet, despite many advances, patients interacting with the healthcare system often sense that the deck is stacked against them.
More than 190 million Americans have at least one chronic condition.
Over 46 million Americans struggle with a behavioral health issue.
62 million people in the US lack access to a primary care physician.
Cancer care alone costs us over $80.2 billion per year.
Whether it’s access, quality, or the cost of care, members often struggle because the answers are too difficult to discover and then decipher. Now, with a focus on solving healthcare’s biggest challenges, a reshuffling is taking place, and virtual care is changing the game. Let’s look at two important ways that virtual care delivery is doing this:
A Better Approach to Tackling Behavioral Health Challenges
It is estimated that one in five American adults at some point in their lives, deals with a medically-diagnosed mental illness. Traditional resources for mental health can be hard to find, and even harder to navigate once they’re found. This is where advanced virtual care platforms are stepping in to proactively identify individuals who need help, while providing convenient behavioral and medical health resources for them to access expert psychiatrists and therapists.
These virtual expert reviews have led to 88% of diagnoses being changed or refined, 81% of treatment plans being altered, and 68% of medications being changed in behavioral health cases. Most importantly, members have seen impressive symptom reduction. Using DASS scores, members saw a 32% decrease in depression symptoms, 31% reduction in anxiety symptoms, and 20% reduction in stress symptoms.
Getting it Right, Even with the Most Complex Cases
Expert second opinions continue to be an instrumental tool in assuring quality outcomes, savings, and the confidence that the best path is being taken, and virtual access suddenly makes this a viable option for many. We’ve seen children originally diagnosed with a serious gastrointestinal condition and prescribed intense medications, have experts review the case to discover a gluten allergy. In one complex cancer case, a 50-year old member was about to begin chemotherapy, when she received an expert review and re-testing of pathology to confirm the cancer diagnosis, but the experts determined that a less invasive aromatase inhibitor therapy would be more beneficial.
Recently, a 51-year old woman named Denise, with a long history of major depressive disorder, underwent a careful analysis of her case through virtual care. After a series of deaths in her family and strained relationships had forced her to take a leave from work, she finally found help when a team of expert clinicians and case managers guided her through a multi-disciplinary approach. It led to a significant change in her medication strategy, while also teaching her adaptive coping skills. The results have been remarkable, as Denise returned to work two months ahead of schedule. Her symptoms improved enough to downgrade her diagnosis from severe depression to moderate. Most importantly, her marriage was saved and many of her strained relationships have been reconciled.
A Powerful Combination
Today, innovative virtual care delivery platforms have the power to connect individuals with providers for anxiety, depression, PTSD, panic disorders, domestic issues, and much more. This is why it’s so promising that virtual care can help members navigate complex systems of care, and even embark on an expert-led, early intervention approach where psychologists and psychiatrists review and often modify the diagnosis and treatment plans generally made by primary care providers. From expert review, to validation of diagnosis, to navigation all the way through the delivery of treatment, virtual care has created an easy to access, end-to-end path, that has never existed before at such a scale.
The Future is Bright
These breakthroughs are just the tip of the iceberg. Artificial intelligence and predictive analytics are now being used to proactively identify members in need of intervention and consider every piece of research to determine a treatment option. Advanced virtual care delivery platforms are improving outcomes through providing accessible quality care. Through a more expansive view of virtual care, we are restacking the deck in favor of our members.