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Virtual health: Extending the human touch in care delivery

Strategies to engage providers in virtual care delivery

While virtual health is on the rise, some physicians are hesitant to adopt these technologies due to concerns of losing the human touch in care delivery. However, virtual health can offer an integrated delivery approach complementing in-person care to drive more connected, coordinated care.

Driving physician adoption for more connected care

The health care industry is primed for expanded adoption of virtual health. Several key factors are elevating stakeholder interest, including expected physician shortages, increased customer demand, continued advancements in enabling technologies, and evolving federal and state policies1.

Figure 1. Opportunity for impact

Health plans and employers, both of which have strong incentives to supplement personal care with virtual options, are at the forefront of industry adoption. Hospitals and health systems, however, may face physicians' hesitations, such as concerns about the potential loss of human touch in health care delivery and the impact on workload.

This resistance may be overcome if physicians and other clinicians embrace virtual health as an integrated delivery approach for treating their patient, complementary to rather than a replacement for in-person care; a delivery option that enhance provider-patient interactions and extends–not replaces–the human touch.

Virtual health technologies have the capacity to inform, personalize, accelerate, and augment humans’ ability to care for one another. For providers, committing to virtual health at a personal and organizational level can afford an opportunity to deliver more connected, coordinated care.

Figure 2. What role can virtual health play?

What’s at stake?

Hospitals, health systems, and health plans are each uniquely positioned in the virtual health market, particularly because of their ability to impact care across the continuum2. Yet, while many provider organizations acknowledge the trend toward virtual health, some stop short of fully embracing this delivery model. Clinical leaders fear that human-centered health care may end where virtual health technology begins—that virtual health may discount or even replace their value.

Additionally, providers are skeptical that virtual health actually decreases costs and are concerned about medical errors, access to technology, and data security3. As a result, providers are showing less enthusiasm for virtual health than consumers, and demand continues to outpace adoption across health systems.

Virtual health is not about technology replacing humans in health care, but about augmenting and supplementing providers to improve the delivery of care—moving from a focus on bedside to “webside” manner. Virtual care may help relieve clinicians of mundane, administrative, or routine tasks, affording them more opportunities to practice at the top of their license.

Further, virtual health can enhance patient-provider interactions and improve the overall patient experience. Studies and use cases demonstrate that providers can reduce costs, improve clinical outcomes, increase patient engagement, and expand access to care through virtual health programs.

Figure 3. Key findings from the Deloitte 2018 surveys of US health care consumers and US physicians

Advancing virtual health adoption

Physicians, hospitals, and health systems that embrace, invest in, and commit to virtual health can strengthen their ability to enhance care coordination between providers and patients. As more organizations establish virtual health programs, the evidence supporting improved quality and impactful results across the continuum of care will continue to mount.

Organizations interested in building or advancing a virtual health program should consider starting by:

  • Identifying 2-3 priority virtual health use cases
  • Initiating an enterprise-wide strategic planning process to build consistency in experience and maximize investments
  • Developing a business case for each use case
  • Uncovering gaps in operations or technology infrastructure to support use case and long-term vision
  • Defining the virtual health program’s governance structure to help accelerate progress and create a consistent experience

To learn more about adopting virtual health care capabilities, download our full report.

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1Josh Nelson, Bryan Sung, Sunil Venkataram, and Jennifer Moore, Transforming care delivery through virtual health, Deloitte, 2017,

2Nelson, Sung, Venkataram, and Moore, Transforming care delivery through virtual health.

3“How do health care consumers and physicians perceive virtual care?” (infographic), Deloitte Insights, June 14, 2018,

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