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By Michael Dalton, CEO, Ovatient

If you’ve been reading the same healthcare articles and newsletters as me recently, I wouldn’t blame you for asking, “Hey, Michael, is this the best time to be leading a virtual care startup?” Investments are hard to come by. Well-established retailers and health insurers have left the space. There has to be something easier, right?

No doubt, we are in a transitional moment as many big players are discovering that delivering virtual care is a lot harder than it looks. In just the last few weeks, I’ve seen numerous headlines on this topic that have used the word “dead,” neveran optimal word when talking about healthcare!

Before we get into it, first let’s start with some facts.

I’m here to tell you that virtual care is certainly not dead. In fact, virtual care isn’t going anywhere. The future of virtual care is what it has always been about: connecting patients to care when they need it and how they need it, bringing patients, health systems and traditional sites of care closer together across both distance and time. And while that may be bad for some big companies and outside “disrupters,” it’s good news for patients.

As a baseball fan, I like to use the analogy that we are in the top of the third inning and there is plenty of game left to be played. And buckle up as we have a 162-game season ahead of us.

What Patients Really Want

What patients have always wanted in their care is to be seen, valued and heard. But traditional virtual visits were never designed to see a whole patient, and they have often been relegated to moments in time and singular, isolated visits. Patients need and expect more.

This is why The MetroHealth System in Cleveland, Ohio and MUSC Health in Charleston, S.C. came together to found Ovatient in 2022. Ovatient is redesigning health care delivery by offering connected, coordinated and convenient virtual care that is built on Epic and leverages the familiarity patients have with MyChart. We’re unlocking new opportunities for health systems to improve health outcomes, reduce costs and more deeply engage patients with their trusted care team.

We believe there is strong demand for high-quality virtual care services right now. But most services are focused on access and speed as badges of honor and are not focused on quality or coordinating care. And, most importantly, they are disconnected from the health systems that patients trust. Ovatient is solving this problem.

What Health Systems and Provider Organizations Really Need

Integration with a health system’s EMR like Epic and a focus on interoperability from Day 1 sets virtual care providers apart from many other digital health services that operate in isolation. That’s why Ovatient started with an “Epic-first” approach.

This differentiation is crucial because it positions virtual care providers like us as true partners to health systems rather than competitors. When virtual care services are embedded within an EMR framework, they are not just an added layer of convenience but a core component of a patient’s overall care strategy. This enhances patient trust, as they know their virtual care is fully integrated with their larger care team. Additionally, it offers health systems a scalable solution to extend their reach and capacity without compromising the quality of care, all while building trust with a patient’s extended care team.

This strategic alignment supports better health outcomes by facilitating continuous and coordinated care. This work isn’t easy but is at least made easier through EMR integration.

Virtual Care is Personal

At Ovatient, we strongly believe in virtual-first care. Patients should have the option to get care wherever they are located and be guided by trusted virtual care providers, including being connected directly to in-person care, if needed.

Ovatient is not a competitor to our health system customers. We also aren’t merely adding capacity. We’re providing patients with a new way to experience care, with our virtual care team working hand-in-hand with our customers’ in-person care teams to enable patients to get the right care at the right time, wherever they are. We are an essential, dedicated virtual care partner in collaborative care.

We launched with MetroHealth in Greater Cleveland about two months ago. We’ve seen thousands of patients and are proud to report a net-promoter-score that ranks us alongside leading consumer brands. Most importantly, our patients feel seen and heard.

  • “It was very easy and really helped me access a doctor without missing more work. Thank you all!”
  • “The service was very easy, and the positive attitude and caring nature of the doctor was welcomed.”
  • “Very comforting to be able to speak to (and see) a provider so quickly. He was very reassuring.”
  • “Fast, easy, provider was on time and answered all my questions and concerns and very thorough.”

This is just the beginning– for virtual care and for Ovatient. I have always said that just because the care we provide is virtual doesn’t mean it isn’t personal. In many ways, virtual care is even more personal than a traditional in-person visit. I see virtual care as the great equalizer. Without leaving home or work, patients can connect instantly with providers who can listen intently to their patients’ needs and see their personal environment. What could be more insightful or personal than a patient inviting you into their life like that?

Some may say that virtual care is transactional and there is some truth to that. But it is in that “transaction” where we can do more for our patients, providing hope and finding our own purpose. It’s this personal element for which I am so proud to demonstrate how we truly care for our patients and meet them where they are. We are driven to serve our patients, like the woman experiencing housing instability while going through the early stages of menopause who needed help and guidance on where to turn. Or the young man who had an urgent care need, but just as importantly, an urgent need to get his electricity turned on as the hot and humid summer approaches in Cleveland. The stories of our patients and how our team has stepped in and stepped up to meet them where they are in life and what they need in that moment are what stand out to me, and I believe will ensure that virtual care has staying power.

In the coming weeks and months, Ovatient will be entering new states, adding mental health to our care options and launching a digital platform that enables patients to better connect to their local health systems and engage with health programming tailored to their needs.

Virtual care isn’t dead as some have pondered. It’s just getting started. Are you ready?

Read the original on LinkedIn.