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Hybrid care accelerates with patient demand for access choices

Hybrid care growth harmonizes with what patients and caregivers want for geographic and scheduling flexibility.
By admin
Jun 14, 2022, 8:00 AM

Three digital devices sit on the professional desktop of Dr. Peter Yellowlees. “I work in a completely mobile environment,” he explained. “I can see patients on any of these devices, I can use several different videoconferencing platforms, and I can interact by secure messaging as well as through the EMR. I don’t even own a hardwired computer.”

Yellowlees, a distinguished professor of psychiatry and chief wellness officer at UC Davis Health in Northern California, said his organization has experienced dramatic growth in delivering hybrid care, a model in which doctor-patient relationships combine in-person visits with any form of online care (e.g., video, audio, text messaging).

Speaking at the Hardwiring Resiliency Healthcare Conference, Yellowlees noted that 15 to 20 percent of all patients attending outpatient clinics at UC Davis Health do so via videoconferencing.

Related story: Building virtual care infrastructure begins with removal of perceived barriers

While in-person consultations set the gold standard for immediacy and trust-building when patients interact with doctors, virtual visits are preferred by certain groups, particularly those with mental health conditions who may have a history of trauma or anxiety. What’s more, a controlled trial showed no significant differences between in-person and videoconferencing sessions with patients receiving cognitive behavioral therapy. Both groups experienced significantly reduced symptoms of depression, anxiety and stress, and increased quality of life.

“The virtual space actually makes patients more able to talk about sensitive issues,” said Yellowlees. “The extra distance allows people to be a bit less intimidated than they might have been otherwise when talking to their doctor.” Additionally, virtual visits save time and travel costs while giving physicians opportunities to observe patients in their real environment at home.

Addressing patient and caregiver needs

Hybrid care appears to be the wave of the future in large part because it harmonizes with what patients are looking for in three key areas:

  • Care as a process. “Patients unequivocally want to have their care delivered in a way that has great ease and convenience, and whereby they can trust their provider,” observed Yellowlees.
  • Care as a journey. Today’s patients anticipate treatment beyond a singular consultation and are open to experiencing digital as well as in-person interactions over time.
  • Care as a choice. Patients want options in how they see their physician and how follow-up is conducted.

Related story: Expanded remote patient monitoring solutions to drive more virtual care hybrid models

At the same time, provider organizations should expect hybrid care to earn support from the physician community. “Two big advantages are geographic and scheduling flexibility. I can see a great variety of patients from wherever I happen to be. Also, many patients want to be seen when they’re not working, which may be in the evening,” Yellowlees shared. Having the ability to modify schedules outside of the traditional workweek contributes to physician independence and general well-being, he added.

These converging factors set the stage for continued growth in hybrid care. “Using hybrid approaches will be one of the biggest changes we’ll see coming out of the pandemic,” Yellowlees predicted.


Frank Irving is a Philadelphia-based content writer and communications consultant specializing in healthcare, technology and sports.

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