Evaluating a return on investment for virtual care

Evaluating a return on investment for virtual care

ORLANDO According to experts, financial return on investment is not the only aspect that should be considered when examining the implementation of virtual care technologies.

“Sometimes there is no pathway to return on investment, the pathway is blurry or assumptions are made,” Chad Ellimoottil, professor and medical director of virtual care at the University of Michigan told an audience at HIMSS Global Health Conference & Exhibition preconference Virtual Care Forum on Monday. 

“It’s very dependent-centric,” said Matt Pruente, senior director at Alvarez & Marsal. “Ultimately, though, we need to make it work and it’s very dependent on the system.”

Virtual care offerings that improve the patient experience are vital, but providers must also consider what else the product is going to provide, Ellimoottil said. Improving clinical outcomes is equally important, as is operational efficiency.

When considering return on investment, Matt Pruente says three aspects are essential to consider: direct program view or revenue and expenses, cost avoidance or a cost constraint problem, and downstream benefits or having a long-term system focus. 

Evaluating costs is crucial, especially in regard to operating costs, technology acquisition and infrastructure costs. 

On the benefits side, consider return on investment in virtual care by evaluating direct billing revenue, improved outcomes, increased efficiency and downstream revenue. 

Additionally, evaluate: how much incremental staff time is necessary for technical support, costs associated with licensing fees, reimbursements for virtual care, and reduction of in-clinic medical support and relocation necessities.

There are ways to improve ROI, including patient selection. Target the patient population that prefers virtual care, Pruente said. Improve the conversion rate from video consultations to colonoscopies and get faster patient outcomes by capturing financially lucrative patients. 

Additionally, to improve ROI collect feedback. Enhance patient adoption, identify strategies to reduce cancellation and acknowledge that automated chatbot programs may yield minimal or no return on investment and may not be beneficial, Ellimoottil and Pruente said.  

Ultimately, consider the return on investment early in the planning process, consider how ROI is influenced by specific demands and limitations of the local health system, be aware that some virtual-care-modality financial profiles may not provide a return on investment, and remember that financial return on investment is just one aspect of the decision-making process. 

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