In-Depth Analysis of the Covid-19 Impact on the Virtual Healthcare Assistants Market

It’s been four years that nobody could have imagined and anticipated how Covid-19 reshaped the world. The rise of virtual assistant services in healthcare is another striking trend after remote work and telemedicine exploded in the market.

Virtual assistants (VAs) and virtual assistant services in healthcare are nothing new. In the 1990s, internet use became a widespread service commodity and paved the way for offices to find means of completing their tasks remotely or outsourcing their specific clerical services. 

VAs are more crucial than before because of social distancing and impending threats of another wave of viruses. Even if some offices shut down during difficult times, VAs keep them running and offer cost savings, flexibility, and diverse skillsets and practices.

How the Covid-19 Pandemic Has Accelerated Virtual Assistant Services in Healthcare

  1. Sudden Demand for Experienced Remote Workers

Since March 2020, the United States forced all medical practices with office setups to conduct tasks remotely. Even before the World Health Organization (WHO) officially declared Covid-19 as a pandemic, many healthcare providers decided to switch to remote work and teletherapy to ensure the safety of their patients and staff. Some in-house employees need to learn more about remote work because the shift was too sudden. 

Meanwhile, these moments allowed for virtual healthcare assistants to be well equipped. They provide high-quality healthcare administrative services and continue to be productive regardless of distance and office shutdowns. They know how to use tools for remote collaboration, video chat, and speech recognition.

Hence, when the in-house staff needs assistance or when they are not equipped to work remotely, this paved the way for many medical practices to hire VAs.

  1. VAs Help Offset Revenue Loss

The early April 2020 losses in revenue that medical practitioners experienced are massive because of the Covid-19 pandemic. The Medical Group Management Association released a survey that Covid-19 directly or indirectly affected 97% of doctors financially. 

Fifty-five percent of the revenue fell with 60% of the patient volume during the early months of the pandemic. The financial storm has made many medical practices find a way to cut costs, reduce overload, and stay afloat. The following reasons tell us how VAs can save your cost. 

A contractual VA is different from a full-time, in-house administrator. When specific tasks need completion, that’s the time a VA works. Even if a full-time employee and a VA work on the same job at higher hourly rates, the latter is relatively cheaper.

Office space or supplies and benefits like sick leaves are unnecessary for an employer to provide for its VAs. Since the pandemic forced many medical offices to shut down, saving an office overhead was another feature that attracted businesses to adopt virtual healthcare assistants.   

  1. Need for Quick and Flexible Service

Virtual assistants are independent contractors and have the flexibility to slip into someone else’s schedule. There are still many closed medical offices, and others reopened with tentative, limited scheduling. 

VAs are like administrative heroes who save the day and disappear as quickly as they arrive. Disruption in the entire office workflow does not happen because VAs are problem solvers and can optimize the patient experience. 

  1. On-Demand Professional Expertise

The time to have on-the-job training is little to none during the crisis. Good enough, many VAs don’t need additional training because of their expertise in their area of specialty. 

Some have acquired certifications as Medical Office Administrators, electronic health record (EHR), electronic medical record (EMR), Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), and Health Level Seven (HL7).

Depending on the VA’s skills, a medical practice needs their help on any non-clinical task such as:

  • Follow up with insurance
  • Manage appointment schedules
  • Obtain preauthorization
  • Update EMR and a patient triage

Every task has available expert virtual assistant services like Phoenix Virtual Solutions with HIPAA-trained virtual healthcare assistants in the Philippines. They offer certain professional virtual medical assistant services and have enterprise-grade security systems. They follow strict policies and do background checks to ensure all verified resources.

  1. Freedom to Mix and Match Skill Sets

VAs offer a bouquet of skills that entice healthcare providers in virtual assistant services in the healthcare industry. You can hire the exact VAs in your medical office to ensure no skill gaps or specific administrative tasks are complete.

Generally, a single VA does not have every skill the doctor practices need. Instead, the different VA skills can be mixed and matched to suit different needs. It’s a big plus for many medical practices to hire VAs based on skills despite the unpredictable and unprecedented times.

A global healthcare talent pool makes this possible. Practices can hire VAs with multiple specialties from all over the world at different places to fill specific niches. 

Want help from an IT professional, a coder, or someone who knows picture archiving and communication systems (PACS)? Medical practices hire and pay for three VAs to get the exact talent. You can choose from a selection of specialized VAs provided by some virtual medical assistant services.

What is a Virtual Assistant, Anyway?

A lot of work is required in running a medical practice even if it’s a small local clinic. The training of every medical practitioner is to provide patients with the utmost care. But the whole ballgame becomes different when it comes to office administration.

Hiring a VA could lighten the workload for your in-house employees. You can let the VA handle all the clerical work. But if you’re busy, have enough time to research the right VA. The simple and effective answer is to hire a virtual medical assistant service like Phoenix Virtual Solutions.

A virtual assistant (VA) is your office’s administrator who remotely does duties instead of in-house or in-person. Their tasks are all the same as a traditional in-house medical assistant such as:

  • Appointment scheduling
  • Medical billing and coding
  • Maintaining medical records
  • General office management

This job is currently trending in the business world. A decade or so has passed since technology like affordable home-office equipment and high-speed internet took off for remote assistant work to be feasible.

VAs are nearly all independent contractors working for multiple clients. Their experience in the administrative sector can be several years. But being independent does not mean they’re inexperienced. Part of a VAs’ routine tasks is to juggle multiple clients at once, making them masters of medical administration.

5 Things to Look For When Choosing a Virtual Medical Assistant Service

  1. Skill Sets

When you hire a VA, your office is like a toolbox with an additional tool. Each VA has various skill sets available, and once hired, you’ll have something different to add to your table, such as the following excellent skills sets:

  • Customer serviceA customer service VA can work the phones, collect payments, call each patient to verify appointments, and handle LIVE chats on your website or social media platforms.
  • BillingFor insurance companies, a VA skilled in medical billing does follow-ups, such as authorization, claim denials, and verification of benefits. 
  • Nursing. This VA should be a registered nurse to accomplish statutory notes in patient charts, do laboratory follow-ups, triage new patients, and carry out doctor’s orders and prescriptions. 
  • Telehealth. These VAs with a technical background can create telehealth setup sessions for your office and troubleshoot any basic technical issue you and your patients encounter.

Of course, all these skills are not possible for only one VA. Mixing and matching different VAs with various skills will give you what your medical practice needs. 

The general rule of skill sets has an inverse variation of supply and price. If a VA has one or two skills, they are plenty to choose from at a cheap salary, while those highly skilled are a rare find and expensive.

All will still depend on you and your budget. You can meet your entire need by hiring one highly experienced VA, one or two low-cost VAs. 

You may want to hire one or two low-cost VAs one highly experienced Jack of all trades, or an entire toolbox of VAs to meet your every need. It all sums up your choice of skills to know the costs of hiring them.

  1. Availability

Virtual assistants are similar to most remote workers without regular hours working in their client’s business. Some VAs prefer to work 9-to-5 jobs, and others during weekends, at night, and part-time during the work week.

During the hiring process, ensure you specify that the VA should be available during certain times of the week. VAs are dynamic workers with flexibility. But they are not the same as a chatbot you can contact 24/7. If you want, hire multiple VAs to have your full-office support always and manage their schedules accordingly.

  1. Location

The question of whether you hire onshore or offshore VAs is crucial yet often overlooked.

  • Onshore VAs live in the same country as yours and can lessen clerical errors at a minimum because of their understanding and knowledge of the American healthcare system–its ins and outs. The US has complex healthcare different from other countries.
  • Offshore VAs are overseas or in a foreign country–usually located in Southeast Asia and Eastern Europe. You can find many excellent offshoring virtual medical assistant services in the Philippines like Phoenix Virtual Solutions. The country has an immense talent pool, low-cost resources, and a close following of American culture.

When you hire offshore VAs, you also save a chunk of changes and are about 30-50% cheaper than onshore VAs.

You may add “on-the-job” training for their learnings on specific US healthcare services like the US billing methods. Some offshoring companies devote significant time to their VAs regardless of prior healthcare experience.

Fun fact: Near shore VAs are the third category and come from neighboring countries such as Canada.

  1. Language Skills

Customer service VAs can take advantage of this depending on the location of a doctor’s medical practice like in China, Spain, and Vietnam. A virtual medical assistant becomes valuable based on language needs. For instance, the bilingual VA who can speak English and Spanish helps you reach a wide range of inaccessible, prospective clients.

  1. Technology

All kinds of doors will open up for your medical practice once the hired VAs have the right tech skillsets. One good example is a VA with a Cloud PBX (Private Branch Exchange) background. Servers in remote data centers host this type of business phone system wholly. 

Its features are not similar to a traditional, in-house phone system. It is cheaper in the long run and needs internet to work. Since your Cloud PBX is a remote system, your hired VA and in-house employee can manage it effectively. 

They can also help you have measurable performance and key performance indicators (KPIs) and trackable phone system reports like average time to answer, average call time, and conversion rates. Other tech skills of a VA include payroll software, timekeeping software, data and cloud storage platforms, and project management tools.

What Are The Solutions Healthcare Systems Must Consider?

  1. Widespread Telehealth Adoption Brings Challenges and Opportunity

It was rare to see doctors via video conferencing and telephone. Since March 2020, officials temporarily waived potential HIPAA violations involving telehealth use. Medicare and Medicaid patients now have wider coverage.

Telehealth efforts in the healthcare systems are rapidly scaling up and involve adjustments for infrastructure and navigation training for healthcare providers and patients in the new virtual terrain. The rise of digital-first platforms paved the way for its usability and accessibility to improve.

Allison Norfleet, the global healthcare lead for industry solutions at Cisco, said in the HealthTech magazine that more patients can use these platforms if the entry point is easy to use. 

Telehealth still has many unknowns legally. Models for long-term reimbursements need evaluation from payers. Providers must identify ways and locations to expand more efforts in telehealth. A virtual visit may suit the young, low-acuity patients but not the elderly ones who need their vital signs and lab works taken.

  1. Automation Drives Streamlining of Health IT Services

Patients need help from humans to handle their symptoms and address any issues they have administratively like medical billing or appointment scheduling. Because of the rise in virtual medical assistants and chatbots, redirecting staffing resources to other duties allow organizations to continue getting the needed patient information.

California-based Sutter Health updated a checker bot for existing symptoms and used it for interpreting Covid-19 queries. Many other systems made the same efforts and followed them. 

HonorHealth is a Phoenix-based health system that wants a reduction in the number of incoming phone calls by leveraging ServiceNow capacities. Launching a symptom checker online and a web function allows users to live chat with a nurse.

James Whitfield, HonorHealth’s chief transformation officer, stated in HealthTech magazine that because of the pandemic, the Service tool used for automating internal services was the cloud-based Platform. Across healthcare systems, there is an increase in automation tools. The following areas fulfill the rote but necessary functions of these tools:

  • Human resources
  • IT ticketing
  • Enterprise education

These tools have a hands-off approach, support distancing, and save time.   

  1. Providers Get Covid-19 Insights Via Data Analytics

By the minute, a new disease evolves, and healthcare organizations continue making treatments for those diseases. The implications for better healthcare are big, and the data analytics tools and platforms show their strength. 

The United States is the first healthcare system that treated a Covid-19 patient. A predictive analysis tool used by the West Coast organization gives information about the game plan before diagnosing any US Covid-19 cases. Clinicians are grateful for this in-house designed tool because they can map predictive models and inform other organizations.

The more deployment in remote patient monitoring programs, the more crucial analytics are. These programs are keeping tabs on the recovery of the patient at home. Before a program takes shape, the data clinicians received, processed, and acted upon from wearables and other devices are massive streams. Healthcare providers must determine this.

These efforts save lives and cut costs. According to the survey conducted by a 2019 Society of Actuaries, nearly two-thirds of executives made a forecast that 15 percent or more of the system saved by predictive analytics happened over the next five years. This bright spot can drive efficiency for healthcare providers despite the reduced budgets and mandates.

  

Final Thoughts
Whether you’re just starting your medical practice or in need of additional help on non-clinical tasks, consider hiring a virtual medical assistant from Phoenix Virtual Solutions. Some virtual medical assistant services they offer are billing, medical collection, and back-office management. Contact Phoenix today to discuss these services to match your practice needs. Make life easier for you and your staff. Phoenix Virtual Solutions gets it done! 

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