The American Medical Association (AMA) announced an effort to reenvison the way the full range of benefits generated by virtual care is assessed. The Return on Health initiative proposes what the AMA says is “a new framework to better understand the comprehensive value of digitally enabled care models as decisions are made that will establish the future role of virtual care.”

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Spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic and the adoption of innovative technologies, the US healthcare system is transitioning to a new era of digitally enabled care characterized by delivery models that fully integrate in-person care and virtual care. Yet the full range of benefits generated by virtual care are often misunderstood due to the lack of a comprehensive value framework, according to the AMA.

The Return on Health initiative and its comprehensive framework for assessing the value of digitally enabled care was developed by the AMA and Manatt Health with input from experts representing a cross section of healthcare stakeholders. Building on existing literature and AMA digital health research, the framework accounts for the various ways in which virtual care programs may increase the overall “return on health” by generating positive impact for patients, clinicians, payers, and society going forward.

“Understanding the value of virtual care is vital to inform decision-making that facilitates the shift to digitally enabled care models that blend the best features of in-person care with those of virtual care,” said AMA Board Member Jack Resneck Jr, MD. “The AMA’s framework fills a critical need to inclusively define and measure the various benefits generated by virtual care as decision makers design new care models, prioritize investments, and determine appropriate coverage and payment policies in the future.”

To move beyond dollars and cents in realizing the value of virtual care, the Return on Health envisions framing the benefits of virtual care according to six value streams: clinical outcome, quality and safety, access to care, patient and family experience, clinician experience, financial and operational impact, and health equity. 

The framework also incorporates environmental variables that impact the six value streams: practice type, payment arrangements, patient population, clinical use case, and virtual care modality. These environmental variables provide flexibility to the framework and acknowledge that different healthcare organizations will have different clinical, business, or infrastructure demands that fundamentally shape their approach to virtual care.

To help showcase use cases of this framework, the Return on Health initiative offers real world and illustrative case studies featuring early adopters of the digitally enabled hybrid model that demonstrate how the framework is being used today and highlights opportunities for more healthcare stakeholders to realize the full potential of digitally enabled care in the future.

To learn more about the Return on Health initiative and its proposed framework for measuring the value of virtual care, the AMA will offer a webinar on May 25 at 11 AM EST and a virtual panel discussion for you to share experiences beginning June 1.

Source: AMA