The world of health care is changing. Telehealth options such as video visits, phone visits, and email consultations are growing in popularity. Today, out of more than 100 million encounters with Kaiser Permanente members, more than 50 percent occur over phone, email or video.
Video visits in particular are quickly becoming a popular method among members for handling routine, nonurgent care.
Kaiser Permanente introduced video visit technology in 2014. Today, our members and their care providers have the ability to complete appointments from anywhere, at any time. (Appointment types and availability, and how they can be scheduled, currently vary by region — but we are improving our virtual offerings every day).
Because doctors have access to members’ electronic medical record, they are connected to a complete picture of their health. The video visit details are then documented in the patients’ medical records for future reference.
According to a recent study by Kaiser Permanente’s market research team, members:
- like video visits and see convenience and time-savings as key benefits
- prefer video visits over telephone visits
- believe video visits are most appropriate for minor ailments
- expect discussions with doctors to be more limited in scope compared to an office visit
For Jan Ground, director of virtual care for Kaiser Permanente in Colorado, the mission is clear: “We have to meet members where they want to consume services.”
The goal in Colorado, Ground says, is to provide Kaiser Permanente members with video visits with their own doctor, no matter the department or specialty. Depending on demand and schedules, it can sometimes take few days to schedule an in-person appointment that works for the member and care provider, but with video visits, appointments are available within 24 hours — and sometimes as soon as one hour from scheduling.
This flexibility benefits all concerned: Video visitors receive more immediate attention, and physicians can see those who prefer in-person appointments much sooner. Plus, care providers are generally able to see a patient’s home environment and take that into account when creating a care plan.
Of course, video visits aren’t the only way KP physicians in Colorado provide care virtually — they offer phone visits, online chat consultations, and e-visits, in which patients with common and minor ailments, such as sinus issues or stomach problems, can fill out a questionnaire and receive advice based on their answers.
Without doubt, the trend toward virtual care will continue. And with the ongoing improvements Kaiser Permanente is making to kp.org and our mobile app, it will be even easier for our members to access care, when, where, and how they want it.