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  • Lloyd Price

Virtual Wards: why are they not widely adopted across the US healthcare industry?



Exec Summary:

There are a number of reasons why virtual wards are not more popular in the US healthcare system. Some of these reasons include:

  • Lack of reimbursement. In many cases, insurance companies do not reimburse providers for the services provided through virtual wards. This can make it difficult for providers to offer virtual ward services, as they may not be able to recoup their costs.

  • Technology challenges. Not all patients have access to the technology needed to participate in virtual wards. This can be a barrier to entry for some patients, as they may not be able to afford the necessary technology or may not be comfortable using it.

  • Staffing challenges. Virtual wards require a different skill set than traditional inpatient care. Providers who work in virtual wards need to be able to manage patients remotely and need to be comfortable with technology. This can make it difficult to find qualified staff for virtual wards.

  • Cultural challenges. Some patients may not be comfortable with the idea of receiving care remotely. They may prefer to see a provider in person, or they may not trust the technology that is used in virtual wards.

Despite these challenges, there is a growing interest in virtual wards in the US healthcare system. As the technology improves and as more patients become comfortable with the idea of receiving care remotely, virtual wards are likely to become more popular.


Here are some of the benefits of virtual wards:

  • Reduced costs. Virtual wards can help to reduce healthcare costs by reducing the need for inpatient care. This is because patients who are able to participate in virtual wards can receive care from home, which is often less expensive than receiving care in a hospital.

  • Improved quality of care. Virtual wards can help to improve the quality of care by providing patients with more personalised care. This is because providers who work in virtual wards have more time to spend with each patient, and they are able to monitor patients more closely.

  • Increased access to care. Virtual wards can help to increase access to care by making it easier for patients to receive care. This is because patients who are able to participate in virtual wards do not have to travel to a hospital or clinic to receive care.

Overall, virtual wards have the potential to improve the quality and efficiency of healthcare in the US. As the technology improves and as more patients become comfortable with the idea of receiving care remotely, virtual wards are likely to become more popular.


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Kaiser Permanente: pioneering virtual wards in the USA


Kaiser Permanente is a large integrated healthcare delivery system in the United States. It has been a pioneer in the use of virtual wards, which are a type of telehealth service that provides care to patients remotely.


Kaiser Permanente's virtual wards offer a variety of services, including:

  • Tele-health visits: Patients can meet with their providers via video chat.

  • Tele-monitoring: Patients can use remote monitoring devices to track their health data, such as blood pressure, heart rate, and weight.

  • Tele-coaching: Patients can receive coaching from a nurse or other healthcare professional on how to manage their health.

Virtual wards can be used to provide care for a variety of conditions, including:

  • Chronic diseases: Virtual wards can help patients with chronic diseases, such as heart disease, diabetes, and asthma, to manage their conditions and prevent complications.

  • Post-acute care: Virtual wards can help patients who have been discharged from the hospital or other healthcare facility to continue their care at home.

  • Mental health: Virtual wards can provide care for patients with mental health conditions, such as depression, anxiety, and schizophrenia.

Kaiser Permanente's virtual wards have been shown to be effective in improving patient outcomes and reducing healthcare costs.


For example, a study of Kaiser Permanente's virtual ward for patients with heart failure found that patients who participated in the virtual ward had a lower risk of hospitalization and death than patients who did not participate.

Virtual wards are a promising new way to provide care to patients. They have the potential to improve patient outcomes, reduce healthcare costs, and increase access to care.



Virtual Wards across the USA


While virtual wards have faced challenges in gaining widespread traction in the US healthcare industry, there have been successful implementations and notable achievements.


Here are a few examples of virtual ward programs in the US that have demonstrated positive outcomes:

  1. Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH): MGH implemented a virtual hospital program that focuses on providing care for patients with complex medical conditions at home. The program has shown promising results, including reduced readmissions, improved patient satisfaction, and significant cost savings compared to traditional inpatient care.

  2. Mount Sinai Health System: Mount Sinai Health System in New York launched a virtual hospital program during the COVID-19 pandemic to manage patients with mild to moderate COVID-19 symptoms. The program successfully provided remote monitoring, symptom management, and virtual consultations, reducing the burden on inpatient facilities and ensuring appropriate care for patients.

  3. Mayo Clinic: Mayo Clinic has implemented a telehospitalist program that provides virtual care for hospitalized patients. Through the program, remote physicians use telemedicine technologies to conduct virtual rounds, consultations, and coordinate care with the onsite healthcare team. The telehospitalist program has shown positive outcomes, including improved access to specialists, reduced length of stay, and high patient satisfaction.

  4. University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC): UPMC implemented a virtual care program called "Hospitals at Home" that provides acute care services in patients' homes. The program has demonstrated positive results, including reduced hospital-acquired infections, improved patient outcomes, and lower costs compared to traditional inpatient care.

These examples highlight successful implementations of virtual ward programs in the US healthcare system. They have shown benefits such as improved patient outcomes, enhanced patient satisfaction, reduced healthcare costs, and efficient resource utilization.


As virtual care continues to evolve and the barriers to adoption are addressed, it is likely that we will see further advancements and increased utilization of virtual ward models across the US healthcare industry.



Future of Virtual Wards in the USA


The future of virtual wards in the USA holds significant potential as the healthcare landscape continues to evolve. Here are some key aspects that could shape the future of virtual wards:

  1. Technological Advancements: As technology progresses, virtual care platforms and remote monitoring devices are likely to become more sophisticated and user-friendly. Advancements in areas such as artificial intelligence, wearable devices, and telehealth technologies can enhance the capabilities of virtual wards, enabling more accurate diagnostics, real-time monitoring, and personalized care delivery.

  2. Policy and Reimbursement Changes: The COVID-19 pandemic has brought about temporary policy changes and expanded reimbursement for virtual care services, including virtual wards. These changes have accelerated the adoption of virtual care and have the potential to become permanent, facilitating further integration of virtual ward models into the healthcare system. Continued advocacy for policy reform and appropriate reimbursement models can support the sustainability and expansion of virtual wards.

  3. Improved Connectivity and Infrastructure: The expansion of high-speed internet access and advancements in telecommunication infrastructure will be crucial for the wider adoption of virtual wards. As connectivity improves, particularly in underserved areas, more patients will have the ability to access virtual care services and participate in remote monitoring programs.

  4. Integration with Primary and Specialty Care: Future virtual ward models are likely to focus on strengthening integration with primary care providers, specialists, and other healthcare professionals. Collaborative care models that combine in-person visits with virtual care can provide seamless transitions and continuity of care. Virtual ward programs may also enhance coordination among different healthcare providers, leading to more comprehensive and holistic patient care.

  5. Chronic Disease Management and Population Health: Virtual wards can play a vital role in managing chronic diseases and promoting population health. By providing continuous monitoring, personalized care plans, and health education, virtual wards can empower patients to actively participate in their own care, leading to improved outcomes and reduced healthcare costs.

  6. Data Analytics and Predictive Modeling: Virtual wards generate a wealth of patient data that can be analyzed to identify trends, patterns, and predictive models for proactive interventions. Leveraging data analytics and artificial intelligence can help healthcare providers identify high-risk patients, intervene earlier, and prevent hospital admissions. These insights can improve care coordination, resource allocation, and population health management.

While virtual wards have already demonstrated their value in specific contexts, further research, evidence, and collaboration between healthcare stakeholders will be necessary to refine and optimize these models.


By addressing challenges, embracing technological advancements, and prioritizing patient-centered care, virtual wards have the potential to revolutionize healthcare delivery in the USA, improving access, outcomes, and patient experiences.


Engage with the HealthTech Community


HealthTech M&A Newsletter from Nelson Advisors - Market Insights & Analysis for Founders & Investors. Subscribe today! https://lnkd.in/e5hTp_xb

HealthTech M&A Advisory by Founders for Founders, Owners & Investors. Buy Side, Sell Side, Growth and Strategy mandates - Email lloyd@nelsonadvisors.co.uk


HealthTech Thought Leadership from Nelson Advisors - Industry Insights & Analysis for Founders, Owners & Investors. Visit https://www.healthcare.digital




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