How to Build a Whole-Person Care Model for Virtual Care

The virtual healthcare industry is shifting to meet the evolving needs of patients. Here we’ve gathered the top considerations for virtual care companies when building a whole-person care model.

Physical health and mental health go hand-in hand. This begs the question, how can telehealth companies evolve to create models that support whole-person care and provide the range of clinical care patients require?

Integrated virtual healthcare models work to give patients access to a variety of behavioral and primary care providers so they can be connected to the appropriate clinician without having to jump through hoops.

Recently, Wheel founder & CEO Michelle Davey participated in a riveting webinar hosted by HLTH, with fellow telehealth industry leaders to discuss how companies are applying whole-person care and the new integrated virtual care model.

This panel discussion covered the current and emerging challenges companies are confronted with when crafting whole-person-focused virtual care models and how they can build solutions to address them.

This all-star panel included:

  • Alyson Watson, CEO & Founder, Modern Health
  • Merissa Hawkins, Director of Clinical Operations, GoodRx
  • Michelle Davey, CEO & Co-Founder, Wheel
  • Sari Kaganoff, General Manager of Consulting, Rock Health

Here is a link to the webinar recording in case you missed it and below you’ll find our top takeaways.

10 considerations for building a whole-person care model:

1. Virtual care services for mental and behavioral health are in high demand.

Before the pandemic, mental health was already the #1 cause of disability in the world.

In 2020, the pandemic accelerated demand for mental health services. This resulted in the healthcare industry seeing a burst in capital with companies expanding their virtual care services.

The way we work has changed and people are tethered to technology more now than ever. Modern Health founder and CEO Alyson Watson emphasizes, “the rate of innovation will decline if we don’t take care of our minds.” In order to build resilience in the working population, people need easier access to mental and behavioral health services.

2. Whole-person care requires connecting patients to the right healthcare provider at the right time.

If a patient sees a virtual primary care provider for one issue, it's not uncommon for them to bring up other concerns that would require treatment from a provider in another specialty like behavioral health.

As highlighted by GoodRx Director of Clinical Operations, Merissa Hawkins, 79% of all anxiety and depression medications are prescribed through primary care providers. Hawkins says this statistic supports the notion that people don’t have readily available access to clinicians specialized in treatment surrounding behavioral health.

When looking at whole-person care, Wheel’s Michelle Davey encourages companies to view the goal of whole-person access as “increasing the availability of the right healthcare provider for a number of conditions at the right time when the patient needs it.” In virtual care, we have the opportunity to do this seamlessly.

3. The Stepped Care Model can make mental healthcare more efficient.

Integrated behavioral healthcare can be achieved with the stepped care model.

This model works to provide the most appropriate level of medical intervention for the given type and severity of illness a patient is experiencing at that time. For example, if someone is seeking guidance in their professional life, they should be directed to a career coach rather than a psychiatrist.

Creating a funnel that directs patients to the correct provider type prevents sub-clinical patients from clogging the system, which can limit access to critical mental healthcare for patients that need it most.

Telehealth companies implementing electronic solutions to provide stepped care can improve clinical workflows and efficiency in healthcare. Modern Health’s Alyson Watson says companies need to ask, “how can we build a solution that triages people to the right level of care?”

4. Telehealth and enterprise-level companies are expanding their virtual care offerings to provide whole-person care.

In 2020, the virtual care industry saw organizations add additional services to their virtual care offerings to meet the expanding needs of patients.

Wheel Founder and CEO Michelle Davey spoke on this trend and notes, “we’ve seen a large entrance from mental and behavioral health providers, but also providers outside of behavioral health including virtual primary care companies and even large enterprises outside of healthcare, looking to add core competencies and care delivery methods for virtual behavioral health.”

With the infrastructure available through companies like Wheel, organizations are able to fill gaps in their core offerings without having to create a large clinician network in-house.

Wheel has created two clinical networks with clinicians to support companies that may not focus on behavioral health so they can have full-time access to a broader range of clinicians for their patients.

5. Telehealth companies are transitioning from point solutions to ecosystems.

Sari Kaganoff of Rock Health asks the panel how they think about the trade-off between having really tailored point-solutions versus an ecosystem.

In her experience observing companies offering point solutions, Watson says she noticed this framework “created a fragmented user experience” and didn’t allow patient outcomes to be properly tracked.

Telehealth companies offering point solutions often struggle to serve the spectrum of primary and mental healthcare services patients are looking for. Creating an ecosystem allows patients to go to one platform for all the different types of care they may need over time.

Michelle Davey emphasizes “Wheel helps companies that maybe start in a point of care solution move towards the ecosystem” by offering organizations access to various clinicians types around the country.

6. Patient medical data is too fragmented.

Davey explains innovations in the virtual care tech stack can improve interoperability so patient data can be shared horizontally between providers in different clinical settings, subject to privacy laws.

Increasing interoperability among medical record systems is necessary in order for providers to track a patient's information wherever they go. To provide quality care and make informed clinical decisions, providers often need to be aware of historical medical information and treatment.

The whole-person care model works when patients are connected to the correct providers when they need it and these barriers of communication between providers prevents this from happening seamlessly.

7. The virtual care industry is seeing a shift from a transactional model to long-term care.

Patients need a place to go to receive long-term care for primary care and behavioral health issues.

Broader platforms are compatible with whole-person care because they are able to meet a variety of mental health and primary care needs that evolve and present themselves over time.

8. Patient-centered care is a growing necessity.

Creating integrated care teams needs to begin with putting patients at the center of care. When a patient seeks treatment for one issue, this doesn’t mean they don’t need care in other dimensions. Considering what they want and what their goals are as part of the care plan contribute to providing a whole-person approach to care.

Virtual healthcare companies need to ask, “how do we take a patient-centered approach to bring patients in through whatever channel they enter to receive clinical care, and then refer them to the appropriate clinician?”

9. Linking virtual and in-person care is an ongoing challenge.

Overtime, and subject to the privacy laws, virtual care companies will need to be able to pass patient data interoperably not just within hospitals, but across in-person and virtual care systems.

Technology provided by companies like Surescrips are also good examples of how this level of communication and data transfer may work in the future.

10. Virtual care companies need solutions to make cross-state care more accessible.

Each state has its own regulations governing how to obtain clinical licenses, and obtaining new licenses can be difficult for clinicians. The pandemic has made it more difficult because of the influx of license requests.

A federal license that allows clinicians to practice across state lines is not likely to emerge. To do so would require changes to state laws and regulations, and would further reduce the fees that state medical boards make from clinicians seeking licenses in additional states.

At Wheel, we’re familiar with the current regulations and provide support and guidance to ensure clinicians are compliant in whichever state they are delivering care.

Clinicians need support when obtaining new licenses. Companies should provide educational resources for clinicians so they understand the regulations and requirements for each state.

Expand your virtual healthcare offering to provide whole-person care with Wheel

Wheel’s telehealth marketplace gives companies the technology and infrastructure to add primary care or behavioral health services to your virtual care arsenal. From our white-labeled virtual care platform to our 50-state network of PC and BH clinicians, Wheel has everything you need to deliver your desired virtual care experience to patients.

Learn more about how Wheel’s solutions can fill the gaps in your virtual care offering today.

Wheel was just recognized in Forbes' Next Billion-Dollar Startups list! Learn more.

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