In our Q&A series with Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital's Virtual Care Developer, Jason Peoples (read Part 1 here and Part 2 here), we've learned a lot about how virtual care is engaging patients and breaking down barriers to care. We learned so much, in fact, that we couldn't fit it all into two blog posts. Here's some bonus material about Jason's recent poster presentation and takeaways from the American Medical Rehabilitation Providers Association (AMRPA) conference this month.

You recently head the honor of speaking at the AMRPA conference on virtual care in rehabilitation. What were your takeaways from the conference?

One big focus and takeaway was the fact that we’re in a conundrum of “big data” in healthcare. It’s a term we hear so often, and there’s no denying we have tons of data, but what do we do with that? It’s not uncommon these days to hear people referred to as a medical record number (MRN) instead of a name. In this era of big data, we’ve really been whitewashing people as individuals - just putting them in a “patient” bucket, and someone who once was a person is now just a data point. Are we getting away from person-centered care? Of course we all want to be patient-centered. It’s why we got into medicine. But what does that mean operationally? How can we really meet patients where they are instead of forcing them to fit into healthcare’s operations? Fortunately, I really think virtual care has great opportunities to do that. It enables more actual human interaction while still giving us all those data points the industry is obsessed with.

Can you tell us more about personal interaction in healthcare?

Definitely. In healthcare more than other industries, you’re actually paid to help people, so you kinda have to like people. That might sound silly, but there’s a lot of technology now that’s designed to eliminate human interaction. UberEats, the self checkout at the grocery store, or the touchscreens at Panera - they’re all designed to remove face-to-face interactions. And I’m certainly not knocking that - there’s a demand for it, for sure. But in healthcare, you can’t apply those same expectations and rules. If you don’t like people, you probably should switch careers. It’s ultimately a person receiving care who’s impacted, and they're receiving it directly from you. In healthcare, it's not about acquiring items like groceries or a sandwich. It's not the same as UberEats - it's a human being's life and health. We need technologies that augment those interactions, not remove them.

A patient and her doctor discuss care virtually via tablet.
Virtual care enables more patient-clinician interaction

What other considerations should people take when thinking about virtual care delivery?

I think it’s easy for us to forget how new some of this is, and to take some things for granted. For example - what happens if you have a poor internet or phone connection? We can control our own environments to a certain extent, but we can rarely control our patients' environments. Network connectivity isn’t like air - it doesn’t just exist everywhere all the time the way we’re accustomed to thinking of it. Are users on LTE? 3G? 4G? Are they using a phone as a hotspot? Maybe they’re in the airport and their connection will time out after 15 minutes because they didn’t pay for the WiFi package. These are real-world considerations we always have to keep in mind and plan for. 

BONUS: Read Jason’s poster presentation below.

Virtual Care: Expertise Within Reach research poster by Jason Peoples
Jason's recent poster on virtual care