Why virtual hospitals are gaining traction in Asia Pacific

McKinsey & Company’s Rebecca Kannourakis sheds light on the positive impact of virtual hospitals on patient care in Asia Pacific.

Virtual hospitals and telehealth are proving to be convenient and cost-effective models of care, prompting administrators of healthcare systems to embrace these digitally enabled alternatives to traditional inpatient care.

In Asia Pacific, various virtual care options are gaining traction in such countries as India, Japan, South Korea, Singapore, and Australia, according to Rebecca Kannourakis, associate partner at global management consultancy firm McKinsey & Company.

Interviewed recently by Healthcare Asia magazine, Kannourakis gave valuable insights into the virtual hospital landscape, distinguishing it from smart hospitals, and discussed the feedback received from consumers and stakeholders.

First, she explained that a virtual hospital is a home setting that combines telemedicine, digital technologies, and in-person visits in order to provide high-quality, hospital-grade care in the comfort of the patient’s home.

“So a virtual hospital is really a digitally enabled at-home alternative to emergency or inpatient acute care,” she said.

On the other hand, smart hospitals focus on improving outcomes within the physical healthcare facility using advanced technology like artificial intelligence and data analytics.

Positive feedback from consumers and stakeholders who have experienced virtual hospitals demonstrates the growing acceptance and satisfaction with this new care model.

Research conducted by McKinsey showed that 80% of surveyed Australian consumers are aware of or have used virtual care. Of those who have utilised virtual care, 90% reported being satisfied with the care received and expressed willingness to reuse it or recommend it to others.

Key benefits highlighted by users include convenience, avoidance of in-person care settings, and flexibility.

“We already know that more than 95% of our surveyed Australian physicians who use digital care, were satisfied... And interestingly, three quarters of physicians said that patient preferences for this care was actually one of the main drivers in them providing it,” said  Kannourakis.

With positive feedback from consumers and physicians, these digital care models are gaining traction and transforming the healthcare landscape.

However, she said it is essential to ensure that the right patients are targeted for virtual care to maximise its benefits and deliver the best patient experience.

To illustrate her point, Kannourakis cited the case of an 80-year-old woman with cellulitis, a skin condition, whose treatment typically requires a five-day hospital visit; so, her doctor refers her to a virtual hospital.

The virtual hospital conducts a thorough screening process to ensure her eligibility, considering factors such as complications, comorbidities, and the suitability of her home environment.

Once determined eligible, the patient received in-home care infrastructure, including a 24/7 remote monitoring system, tools, and scheduled in-person visits and remote consultations.

This care pathway offered her greater comfort, reduced exposure to germs and infections, the presence of family or friends, and a faster recovery.

With this example, Kannourakis shed light on the transformative potential of virtual hospitals in Asia Pacific, in which healthcare can be more accessible, cost-effective, and patient-centered.

As parting shot, she said that whilst the virtual hospital trend continues to evolve, it is crucial to keep an eye on further developments in this rapidly growing field for more positive impact on patient experience and outcomes.

For more healthcare news, visit Healthcare Asia magazine.com.

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