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Understanding the impact of virtual care on patient behavior

Apr 19, 2023

9 minutes read

Forming good health habits is one of the primary challenges facing the healthcare industry. Virtual care solutions can play a decisive role in boosting public health and motivating patients to create positive habits.

How can virtual care change patients’ habits for improved health outcomes?

Public health challenges such as obesity, tobacco smoking, and substance abuse stem from poor habits and a lack of health awareness. In addition to the long-term health repercussions, these habits also bring about a financial burden. For instance, in the US, people living with obesity pay an additional $1,429 in health expenses each year compared to healthy individuals. Poor habits are not the only reason why people suffer from long-term health implications. The transition from the hospital to home can be overwhelming for patients, as they are left unsupervised and lose their connection with doctors and nurses. Creating healthy habits post-discharge is crucial for reducing a patient’s risk of readmission, but forming new habits can be difficult if the patient does not have access to the necessary information and resources. 

So, what is virtual care, and how does it affect patients’ behavior? Virtual care, or telehealth and remote patient monitoring tools, can help people change their behavior, improve their health outcomes, and reduce readmissions. Today, we will look at how virtual healthcare paves the way for changing health habits, improving treatment outcomes, and preventing hospital readmissions.

Building understanding and breaking the habit

Virtual care for breaking harmful habits or forming positive ones always depends on a general understanding of routine and habit. The virtual care opportunities for changing the patient’s behavior must always be based on the four main steps to developing a positive or negative habit:

  1. Cue: a stimulus serves as a prompt that activates the brain and initiates behavior to obtain a potential benefit. This benefit can be a fundamental necessity such as food, shelter, or water or a secondary reward such as money, notoriety, admiration, thrill, love, or pleasure. Our brains constantly assess our inner and outer environment to detect potential rewards. The subsequent stage, craving, is activated when a bonus is identified.
  2. Craving: the powerful motivation that drives every habit is a craving – the urge that prompts us to take action. It is not the habit itself that is desired but the result it produces. An example of this is alcohol addiction. Adicts do not crave the alcohol itself, but instead, the endorphin release it causes and the feelings of pleasure they experience afterward. If the craving is strong enough, the body will automatically react to it.
  3. Response: a person’s action to satisfy the cravings is what people call a habit.
  4. Reward: the reward serves as the aim of every action and reaction. It can fulfill our desires and teach our minds to remember which behavior is worth retaining and repeating in the future or forming a habit. It depends on activities that can please us and provide pleasure. Our brains can detect beneficial actions. The brain decides if a routine is advantageous based on whether it meets the initial craving. It means that even bad habits can be seen as beneficial by the brain, even though they may not benefit our health. For instance, eating ice cream for dessert seems helpful to our brains since it satisfies our craving for something sweet.

How to apply virtual medical care to break bad habits and create positive ones?

Virtual healthcare solutions allow patients to participate actively in their health. Through various tools, patients can monitor their vitals, watch educational videos, and log their daily activities, all from their homes. By doing so, patients are empowered to take control of their health, ensuring they are following their regimen and experiencing the full scope of virtual care opportunities. Patients can now take responsibility for entirely using the telehealth tools provided by virtual medical care, such as following their recovery plan and logging data, to determine their progress. With real-time monitoring, they can either be motivated to keep up the excellent work or strive to improve. With each rehabilitation task completed regularly, healthy habits are formed that contribute to a healthier routine overall. 

Telehealth or virtual care seeks to cultivate different patient habits, including remote patient monitoring (RPM). It encourages patients to be more engaged and self-sufficient in their health care. Telehealth services often provide educational materials and personalized alerts, acting as the cue that stimulates the desire to keep using the solution. As a result, patients continue to use the telehealth system and, in return, receive the reward of avoiding emergency department visits, readmission, or poor health outcomes.

How virtual care turns the passive patient into a decision-maker

Telehealth services such as video conferencing, online medical record access, and remote patient monitoring (RPM) allow patients to become actively involved in their healthcare, even without the physical presence of a doctor. These services enable patients to receive care without leaving their homes and give them access to information about their condition and treatment plan. Patients can be more proactive in managing their health rather than waiting for a doctor to diagnose and prescribe medications. Additionally, telehealth can help to bridge the gap between passive and active patient engagement by giving patients the tools and resources to be more involved in their healthcare decisions.

Healthcare providers are utilizing telehealth and video conferencing platforms to promote an interactive experience between physicians and patients. It enables patients to be more vocal about their care and allows physicians to provide personalized text messages to strengthen their critical-thinking decisions and behavior related to healthcare management. This approach also gives patients access to their medical records and other important information through a secure patient portal. With this, physicians can also share vital information about a patient’s condition, such as sending a link to an online article or study, enabling and encouraging them to be more informed and active about their care.

Patient-centered care and patient engagement

Telehealth facilitates patient communication, engagement, and education regardless of the size of the clinic, its staff, or the patient base. This shift to a patient-centered care model allows patients to participate more active in their healthcare, increasing engagement and knowledge. As a result, patients can make informed decisions about their health and treatments, improving safety and quality of care.

Below you can read how virtual medical care impacts the trend for patient-centered care.

Increasing the quality of healthcare

Most experts now concur that patient-centric care is essential for increasing healthcare quality. Through patient feedback, healthcare providers can continually enhance their service delivery, better market health services, and improve their products. Virtual care provides a reasonable way to gather patient feedback through web-based questionnaires. Also, telehealth allows for easy scheduling of appointments and the chance for patients to communicate with their physicians about the care they need. Furthermore, patients are more likely to be open about cases when their medications don’t help as well as they used to. Through reliable virtual healthcare solutions developed by experienced healthcare software engineering companies, patients can send follow-up inquiries and quickly receive answers even outside their scheduled appointments.

Reaching an in-person level of connection with the patients

A recent study found that telehealth can be as effective as an in-person visit for treating ongoing conditions or chronic illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease, and lung disease. Moreover, it can also be used to diagnose and treat minor injuries or illnesses, such as stomach pains or nausea, without needing a hospital or emergency room visit. However, knowing when telehealth is the most appropriate option is essential. For instance, let’s say a patient has a large bruise on their arm and experiences moderate pain. Physicians may recommend putting ice on the area and taking a pain reliever. If further care is needed, they may recommend an X-ray to confirm or rule out a fracture. If a patient needs to make an in-person visit, they can book one easily after connecting with a physician through virtual care. Telehealth also makes it easier for patients with mobility issues to get the care they need without enduring a tiresome or potentially dangerous trip to the doctor’s office.

Improving health awareness among patients

It is important to remember that some patients may hesitate to use telemedicine apps. Technology may overwhelm them, and they need help understanding how it works. Healthcare professionals are responsible for explaining the benefits of telehealth and how easy it is to use. When patients understand telehealth better, they may be more likely to participate in their healthcare and achieve better results since education can be provided virtually.

Telehealth or virtual care solutions can promote health awareness through the following services:

  • Accelerated communication with the physicians;
  • Receiving instructions on how to use telehealth;
  • Reviewing test results and receiving analytics on the treatment progress.

Patient engagement is associated with patient-centered care, which focuses on meeting the individual needs and preferences of the patient. Telehealth also improves patient engagement by providing education and direct access to healthcare, resulting in better preventive health habits and better self-management of health issues.

The popularity of virtual care and its potential for a behavioral shift

In the age of advanced technology, patients have access to a wide range of devices, such as smartphones, tablets, laptops, and desktop computers, that they can use to connect with healthcare providers easily. Telehealth has revolutionized healthcare delivery by providing numerous advantages for increased patient engagement. Telehealth is now integral to healthcare providers’ services and an attractive alternative to in-person patient care. It has reduced the need for unnecessary in-person appointments, and since telehealth consultations can be quickly booked or rescheduled via chats, patients are more likely to attend them. People opt for virtual care as it offers a convenient and hassle-free way to converse with their physicians without wasting time commuting to clinics and sitting in waiting rooms.

Telehealth encourages people to take a more active role in their healthcare, regardless of the severity of their condition. Involving the patient in decision-making provides better overall outcomes. Telehealth can provide patients access to electronic health records, video conferencing, and secure real-time messaging with medical personnel. The virtual cooperation between patients and physicians fosters a collaborative environment, which can help improve the patient’s health and promote positive health habits. When considering telehealth for your practice, it is essential to remember that patients are comfortable with this technology and are interested in having the option to connect with healthcare providers virtually.

Final thoughts: the role of virtual care in shaping patient behavior

Virtual healthcare can help in forming positive health habits in many different ways. First, it can allow people to access healthcare from the comfort of their own homes. It eliminates the need to travel to a doctor’s office and makes fitting appointments into a busy schedule more manageable. It also allows people to receive healthcare from any provider, not just those in their area. Another way virtual healthcare can help form positive health habits is by providing people with access to educational resources. Telehealth solutions often give access to articles, videos, and other educational materials that can help people learn more about their health and how to keep themselves healthy. It allows people to stay informed and motivated to maintain good habits. Additionally, virtual healthcare systems often have tools and tracking techniques that enable people to monitor their vitals and progress over time. It can help people stay on top of their health and ensure they are on track with their health goals.

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