CHICAGO — The American Medical Association (AMA) today announced an effort to reenvison the way we assess the full range of benefits generated by virtual care. The Return on Health initiative proposes 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.

Spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic and the adoption of innovative technologies, the U.S. health care 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.

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 health care 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 health care 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 health care 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 a.m. Eastern and a virtual panel discussion for you to share experiences beginning June 1.

Through its ongoing leadership, the AMA is shaping and supporting digital health innovation and bringing the physician voice into the innovation space to share ideas, expertise and real-world perspective on the effectiveness of technology in practice settings. From revitalizing medical practices to ensuring that evidence-based digital health technology helps provide high-quality patient care, the AMA is striving to help physicians navigate and succeed in a continually evolving health care environment.

Media Contact:

Robert J. Mills

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About the American Medical Association

The American Medical Association is the physicians’ powerful ally in patient care. As the only medical association that convenes 190+ state and specialty medical societies and other critical stakeholders, the AMA represents physicians with a unified voice to all key players in health care.  The AMA leverages its strength by removing the obstacles that interfere with patient care, leading the charge to prevent chronic disease and confront public health crises and, driving the future of medicine to tackle the biggest challenges in health care.