“We have seen a rapid increase in telehealth visits within Kaiser Permanente during the COVID-19 pandemic, up from 18 percent of our visits to 80 percent at the end of April. Kaiser Permanente’s focus for the future of telehealth is to create and embed solutions that are high-tech and high-touch. In 2020, we are using technology to augment and support—not replace—human interaction and intelligence while keeping our members safe.”
— Dick Daniels, Kaiser Permanente Executive Vice President and CIO
As many people continue to shelter at home while forgoing unnecessary travel and community contact, preventative primary care and routine follow-up appointments can often be handled virtually. “A lot of the visits we did in person can be done safely by video,” says Dr. Stephen Parodi, associate executive director of The Permanente Medical Group and national infectious disease leader for Kaiser Permanente.
With up to 80% of outpatient care currently conducted by phone and video visits, Kaiser Permanente physicians are now performing as many video visits per day as they used to do in an average month in 2019.
Years before the novel coronavirus outbreak contributed to a rapid increase in telemedicine worldwide, Kaiser Permanente was setting the standard for excellence in virtual care.
Patients who prefer a standard in-person visit over a virtual visit always have that option available. When an in-person visit is medically necessary, it will be arranged. When medically appropriate, and if requested by the patient, the option to use telemedicine offers safe and convenient access while supporting the full complement of care delivery.
Compared with phone visits and secure email messages, video visits are a newer approach to virtual care. At the beginning, questions arose: How did patients who had requested a video visit feel about their experience? Research scientists at the Kaiser Permanente Northern California Division of Research aimed to find out.
In Northern California, a study was conducted of 1,274 patients who scheduled video visits during the last quarter of 2015, a few months after the option became available region-wide. According to Mary Reed, DrPH, one of the study’s authors, this research was believed to be “the first large study of patient experiences integrating video visits into primary care with existing providers.”
Findings from the 2015 study include:
* 92% said the video visit provider was familiar with their medical history.
* 89% were interested in a future video visit.
* 87% said the video visit was more convenient than other ways of getting care.
* 84% said the video visit improved their relationship with their doctor.