Philips Identifies Areas Essential to Virtual Health Success

Editor’s Note: Sg2 Vice President Henry Soch contributed to this special Virtual Health Program Scale edition of the Virtual Health Newsletter.

As virtual health continues to be adopted widely and as organizations develop their technological capabilities, health systems are increasingly focused on how to scale their virtual health program across the enterprise. Accomplishing this goal is challenging, however, and health systems vary widely in their approach and results.

Recently, Philips announced the results of a 3-year study, entitled ACT@Scale, to identify the critical areas of focus for organizations seeking to operate their virtual health programs at scale. The study, spanning 6 European regions across the UK, the Netherlands, Germany, Denmark and Spain, specifies ideal processes, structures and approaches to collaboration. The recommendations for these regions—which are applicable in the US as well—cover 4 areas identified as essential to success at scaling virtual health: citizen empowerment, stakeholder and change management, service selection, and sustainability and business models.

As in the United States, several European countries have noted increased premature mortality rates from cardiovascular diseases, cancer, diabetes and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. The World Health Organization is responding by setting a goal for Europe to achieve a 25% relative reduction in risk of premature mortality from these diseases by 2025. To accomplish this aim, several European countries have identified connected care capabilities as essential to driving more efficient, patient-centric and continuous care for aging populations across the EU. For many hospitals and health systems in the US, this is a similar refrain to what market leaders have been espousing for years. Now, however, with the identification of these core areas of focus, health systems have a rigorous set of scientific principles to guide their efforts to move from silos to scale, albeit with some looming challenges, as described in the following paragraphs.

Citizen Empowerment

This area focuses on the elements that allow organizations to involve patients in the utilization of these technologies. Contributing areas related to this core focus area include shared decision making, attention to patient journeys, development of empowerment skills and citizens’ networks. Citizen empowerment promotes sustainable health and well-being by facilitating independence, self-management and self-efficacy. However, it has not been well defined, and no consensus has been reached on how to operationalize or measure it.

This is an incredibly important area, though, as patients increasingly demand active management of their own care and active participation in the care decision-making process. Initiatives such as PatientsLikeMe, which has more than 600,000 members; the Patients Included initiative in the Netherlands; and Apple’s Health Records for patients, available through the iPhone Health app, are all centered around this accelerating movement of patients’ involvement in and ownership of their own care.

Stakeholder Management and Change Management

While virtual health is overwhelmingly understood to be table stakes for health systems today, many organizations still struggle to incorporate the patient sufficiently in the planning phase of initiatives and to deploy a structured change management methodology. In addition to cultural resistance to technology adoption, a lack of time to carry out the implementation process was identified as a significant barrier to success.

This is ironic, as technologies increasingly are not only providing solutions that are cost effective, such as Amazon’s Echo Show that is now HIPAA compliant, but also are designed to be efficient and provide time savings for physicians and clinicians.

Service Selection

One contributing area of the service selection core area is the identification of appropriate patient populations for virtual health services. Activities include the identification and selection of patients, the onboarding of required professionals and services, and the development of mechanisms by which services respond to patients’ needs. Selection processes must be appropriate and supported by metrics of success. Health systems that have deployed these capabilities with success have developed individualized approaches to identify appropriate patients.

Sustainability and Business Models

Establishment of a sustainable financial model poses perhaps the most significant challenge to the large-scale adoption of virtual health–enabled integrated care. Health systems that devote concerted effort and resources to evaluate barriers to sustainability, information on health outcomes and costs related to care utilization are well positioned to establish a viable business model that will be maintained over time. As health systems scale their virtual health capability across the enterprise, continuous monitoring and evaluation of the financial impact of all virtual health capabilities is necessary. Through this approach, health systems are poised to not only derive actionable insights but also utilize these data as part of discussions with payers.

Consider the following as your organization seeks to scale your virtual health program:

  • Develop and implement a method to collect patient-related outcomes and experience measures. This patient population–specific set of metrics will provide the information necessary to allow the organization to continue to refine its offering.
  • Ensure that collaborative methodologies are embedded throughout the organization to facilitate and support change management.
  • Develop and integrate a service selection evaluation framework to support and improve service selection. Organizations must provide training to increase physicians’ and clinicians’ skills and awareness of the various components, including case identification, case evaluation, case selection and care plan formulation, that can be executed through virtual health modalities.

Numerous organizations are demonstrating that virtual health can provide value to patients throughout the enterprise. With the availability of these guiding principles, health systems can streamline the process of scaling up virtual health capabilities.

Learn more about the virtual health legislative landscape in Sg2’s on-demand webinar Virtual Health Update 2018: Legislation and Policy.

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Have specific questions or want to learn more about how Sg2 can support your virtual health initiatives? Contact me at 847.779.5449 or

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