Leveraging Virtual Care’s Potential to Address Common Healthcare Disparities

Disparities in healthcare — or basic differences in quality and access among certain populations due to social and economic factors have been a major source of concern for decades, and not only for those directly affected.  These social determinants include:

  • Socioeconomic status

  • Access to specialty or primary care

  • Level of education

  • Home neighborhood

  • Physical environment

  • Employment status

  • Access to social support networks 

“Disparities in health and health care not only affect the groups facing disparities, but also limit overall improvements in quality of care and health for the broader population and result in unnecessary costs,” as Petry Ubri and Samantha Artiga wrote in a report on healthcare disparities from the Kaiser Family Foundation.

In a newer KFF brief on healthcare disparities, Artiga and Elizabeth Hinton argue that focusing attention on the underlying social determinants — “the conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work and age” — could be the key to finally overcoming these persistent challenges.

For most of these factors, there’s no easy solution; they require a long-term, systemic approach from both inside and outside of the healthcare system. And the outlook is growing dimmer, as the HHS’ current overseers pursue policies that “may limit individuals’ access to assistance programs to address health and other needs and reduce resources available to address social determinants of health,” Artiga and Hinton warn.

Yet for some other of these social determinants, workable solutions are already emerging. Telehealth platforms like Reflexion Health’s Virtual Exercise Rehabilitation Assistant (VERA™) are poised to provide greater access to essential health services to the most remote corners of the nation. And they’re able to do so at a lower price point, and with much greater convenience, than the traditional model of care.

Calling the results of a study of our VERA technology “striking,” Fortune’s Sy Mukherjee writes that the “combination of the VERA platform and telemedicine visits — important to people who aren’t at full physical capacity — reportedly ‘resulted in associated savings in time, steps, and money for patients, providers, and payers.’”

How Virtual Care Can Help Address Common Healthcare Disparities

Common Health Disparity #1: Economic. Virtual physical therapy platforms in general — and our VERA platform in particular — have been shown to help reduce costs, and not just operational costs for facilities, but also patient burden and cost associated with travel, parking, and co-pays. These considerations could make all the difference in whether someone can access the kind of high-quality care that’s essential for hip or joint surgery recovery.

In the a recent academic study cited by Fortune, researchers found that VERA “encouraged clinician-patient interaction beyond the hospital setting and offers the advantage of cost savings, convenience, at-home monitoring, and coordination of care, all of which are geared to improve adherence and overall patient satisfaction.”

These improvements, it was noted, are specific to the type of customized collection of biometric data offered by VERA, "which is lacking in other telerehabilitation applications that use noninteractive videos,” the authors add.

Common Health Disparity #2: Geographic Access to Care. Virtual care’s power to bring high-quality healthcare into the patient’s home can also help to defeat the tyranny of geography — the lack of access experienced by those living in rural or remote areas.

With the more widespread use of telehealth and telerehab platforms like VERA, this lack of access is becoming a thing of the past. Thanks to its innovative use of today’s telecommunications technologies, virtual care gives patients not only the option of undergoing most of the rehab process remotely, but of being able to remotely access their care coordinator, even if they happen to live in a different state.

And this isn’t just a convenient way to overcome patients’ lack of access; it’s also a way to improve efficiencies for clinical managers. “I think the virtual visits are probably the biggest benefit,” a lead PT for Yale New Haven Health told us. “They maybe don't have to come and see a therapist as often, but still get the benefit of the exercise.”

Common Health Disparity #3: The Physical Environment. With virtual care, each patient’s physical environment instantly becomes the one where he or she is most comfortable: Home. That means no need to drive off-site (or arrange a ride) for each session. It also offers the added convenience of setting one’s own schedule.

Patients who have used VERA have responded positively to this level of comfort and convenience. “It was great for me because I could do it when I felt it was a good time to do it,” as Paula, a hip surgery patient, told us. “I didn't have to get dressed and get myself somewhere else.”

Best of all, VERA accomplishes this breakthrough in patient comfort without sacrificing outcomes or satisfaction. As a 2018 Journal of Knee Surgery study demonstrates, patient-reported outcomes for Knee Society Score (KSS) pain and functions "improved markedly” with the use of VERA. And with a Net Promoter Score (NPS) of 87, VERA can also claim a higher rate of patient satisfaction than popular consumer brands like Amazon and Apple.

Interested in learning more about how our Virtual Exercise Rehabilitation Assistant technology can help your organization overcome some of your patients’ most common health disparities? Contact us here to schedule your complimentary consultation with a Reflexion Health telerehab expert.