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How Virtual-First Care Works for Coaches and Care Teams

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How Virtual-First Care Works for Coaches and Care Teams

By Chris Sharon

Decades of studies on chronic disease care show that chronic health conditions are significantly improved when treated by multidisciplinary care teams with defined roles and functions. Today, virtual healthcare companies are discovering that those teams can expand and improve their approach through the use of digital platforms, which enable members to harness the motivation and ongoing support to improve their health, and create lasting change.

In the past, allied professionals such as diabetes educators and social workers have worked in tandem to support members, but typically on an ad hoc basis in clinics or in group education classes, and with geographical constraints. The rise of digital platforms and mobile apps now enables care teams to work much more collaboratively and from anywhere, while supporting dozens or even hundreds of members at the same time.

This new model for change is virtual first care (V1C), which enables human coaches and extended care teams to support members with the targeted care they need, as well as continuous support for behavior change. This umbrella of support between visits through technology offers access to key services that may not be possible in an in-person setting.

The rise of digital platforms and mobile apps now enables care teams to work much more collaboratively and from anywhere.

That type of additional support is crucial: For chronic conditions — health challenges that must be managed over long periods of time — showing up in a clinic or doctor’s office once every three or six months may make it harder to achieve long-term success. Some level of day-to-day care has to be in place before members achieve meaningful progress. That’s a foundational element of V1C.

Before that can happen, though, coaches and care teams need to understand how the V1C model works — and why it requires big changes not just in how they can use new technology, but changes they’ll need to make themselves to help members succeed. This workforce is used to an episodic, physician-driven model. To serve members in a virtual-first world, they need to adapt.

Integrated, Not Isolated, Member Care

Virtual care teams exist to complete the care delivery started in the in-person setting. Apps, wearables or other digital resources will never assume the role of doctors in establishing diagnoses or setting treatment plans. Instead, V1C directly delivers the in-between visit support that is essential to take care of a chronic condition. Digital platforms are uniquely poised to efficiently coordinate continuous care and support.

Chronic conditions can’t be treated in isolation of other health factors and social determinants of health.

Succeeding with that approach starts with another tenet of V1C, the understanding that any chronic condition can’t be treated in isolation of other health factors and social determinants of health. Most health challenges are connected to other aspects of members’ lives: Diabetes challenges can accompany issues with mental health; ongoing physical therapy might be paired with hypertension; ease of accessing care and whether a member has strong social support can be critical factors in the successful management of their chronic conditions.

The V1C model enables care that considers a member’s social and life context, which is better understood through an ongoing, asynchronous relationship between care teams and member, versus discrete and spread out in-person visits. V1C, in other words, doesn’t aspire to remedy your sinus infections; any number of providers can handle that. The goal is to provide efficient, integrated care using smart platforms that support members through realtime, real-world data, like CGM readings, in a way the brick-and-mortar model is not equipped to do.

Pairing licensed and credentialed specialists with health coaches as a care team is one way that V1C programs make this happen. Coaches typically work with members on making important changes in their health behavior, while specialists weigh in with clinical recommendations based on interpretations of a member’s data. Importantly, the work of the coach and the specialist are always done in lockstep and with the full picture of the member and their care needs because of the real-world, real-time data coming in from the member through a BGM, a CGM or other digital tools, and being visualized for the care team. As with a care team in a brick-and-mortar setting, the physician can be connected as necessary either through telehealth or in-person appointments as needed.

Read the full white paper to find out how data-driven care teams help drive for better outcomes.

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