COVID-19/the novel coronavirus has already impacted our society profoundly. Publicly funded healthcare is facing one of the biggest challenges since the HIV crisis in the ‘80s but at the same time, demonstrates unprecedented decisiveness. During the last 10 days, we have helped our customers to start up more than 500 new online receptions. In a few weeks, we have more than doubled the number of Visiba Care users. Right now, over 20,000 doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals are working from our platform and more are on their way to receiving training. The patient demand for digital healthcare is crystal clear. The volume of online consultations per day has increased by 660% since March 11th. This is an incredible development that makes us immensely proud and happy to be able to join forces and support healthcare in this difficult situation.
Visiba Care was founded in 2014 with the mission of providing digital tools to healthcare so that they can meet the challenges of the future. At that time, the interest in digital healthcare was not exactly staggering. We have had to work hard to convince, educate, and support the passionate pioneers who, armed with courage, showed interest early on. We were highlighting minimising the risk of infection and offering staff a more flexible work environment. We didn’t know then that we would arrive at a situation where our digital platform would make the difference between life and death.
But here we are now, facing one of the biggest global crises we have experienced since the HIV crisis in the ‘80s. However, this time it’s even more serious, because coronavirus spreads quickly and uncontrollably and may affect us all. The disease already has a firm grip of the entire European continent, as country after country shuts down and minimises social contact – partly to prevent an uncontrollable spread of the infection, partly to protect the most vulnerable groups as well as to ensure that the healthcare system can handle the situation. Publicly funded healthcare has also reacted quickly and efficiently. The Swedish regions that have already started scaling up are now accelerating to a pace never seen before. The previously hesitant are now making quick decisions and go straight to large-scale implementation. Changes that have previously been taking years to implement are now in place within a matter of days. Healthcare operations in both primary and secondary care are switching to a digital-first strategy, whenever possible. In the UK, the NHS has mobilised quickly and in certain cases, decision-making has been centralised for a swifter response to COVID-19. Online and video consultation system procurement for 39 CCGs was completed within a week, proving that even a healthcare system of this size and magnitude can be agile.
Over the past 10 days, we have helped over 300 receptions get started with remote online consultations! This is a fantastic development that is happening right now, and we are delighted and proud to have the ability to support and contribute with our technology, expertise, and efforts. It is relevant to mention that our core values we care, we act, we grow, also hold in times of crisis. Everyone chips in and does their absolute best to enable our customers to deliver on their mission: To provide the right care to those who need it the most – digitally whenever possible, physically when needed. Primarily, it is within publicly funded healthcare that digital transformation needs to happen to make a real difference. After all, it’s not just the first line of healthcare that should be offering digital communication channels. Digital transformation should take place throughout the healthcare system. ‘We can now see clearly how to introduce online consultation in a way that we could not see before in Swedish healthcare’, says Patrik Sundström, Programme manager of e-health at Sweden’s municipalities and regions SKR, in an interview with SVT News on March 24th (in Swedish). We see it with our customers, that our customers now fully support this statement.
The Jönköping Region has pushed through a digital-first strategy for primary care, meaning – among others – that all primary care appointments that can take place digitally, will be done digitally. For example, physical visits in the patients’ residence will be replaced by digital rounds. In addition, all staff at the region’s 33 primary care centres are now receiving training in digital healthcare. ‘The transition we would have done in a year is now done in about ten days’, says Ulf Österstad, Head of Operations for Bra Liv nära the Region’s virtual clinic, in an interview with Jönköpings-Posten Posten on March 23rd (in Swedish).
The Värmland Region scaled up from a virtual youth clinic to a full-scale solution for online consultations in 6 hours (!). Just after a week, 5 more businesses were up and running, offering online consultations via Visiba Care.
The Örebro Region is now in full mobilisation to scale up and enable risk groups to meet their healthcare provider digitally. In specialist healthcare, several healthcare providers are already set up and running online consultations and more are on the way, such rheumatology and pain management clinics. Above all else, it is critical to offer online consultations to the chronically ill and to patients who are already receiving treatment (in Swedish).
In the Västra Götaland Region, the broad implementation that was already planned has been accelerated and major training sessions (news report in Swedish) are underway in several operations. The region’s virtual clinic for primary care, Närhälsan Online, has seen a large increase in demands of bookable times. They have increased staff in their virtual clinic and they have also enabled healthcare workers who are quarantined at home, the opportunity to continue working (news report in Swedish). The region now counts more than 400 receptions within primary and specialist care, offering online consultations.
In the Dalarna Region, healthcare workers in quarantine were able to continue working via online consultations (news report in Swedish).
In the UK – our largest customer, Livewell Southwest, providing integrated health and social care services, have doubled their virtual receptions and staffing of their virtual clinic has seen a six-fold increase. Mike Oliver, Project manager at Livewell Southwest says about their COVID-19 reception: ‘The speed that Visiba has worked during the Covid crisis has been incredible. Within hours, we had a new reception set up called Rapid Connect that we are using for staff across our organisation when they are unable to deliver face-to-face assessments and interventions. In the space of 2 weeks, we trained over 500 people to use the system. Visiba supported us with training materials. We delivered the sessions online.‘
What is happening now is truly historic in publicly funded healthcare. What remains to be seen is whether this is a quick injection in times of crisis or whether this will fundamentally reform the way we operate. As CEO and co-founder of Visiba Care, as a father of a daughter with a congenital heart defect and an impaired immune system, I hope for the latter.