Telehealth has been something healthcare providers, payers and patients have talked about for years, but not really put into practice – until now. As the forces behind telehealth continue to build and the obstacles in front of it are removed, telehealth will soon become such an integral part of the mainstream medical experience that there will be no difference between “healthcare” and “telehealth” at all, and those healthcare organizations that are not prepared will find themselves at risk of being overwhelmed by it when it arrives. To help, Logicalis Healthcare Solutions, the healthcare-focused arm of Logicalis US, an international IT solutions and managed services provider has identified nine important tactics to help healthcare organizations map their telehealth transformation journey.
“One of the biggest mistakes we see people making with their telehealth implementations today is that they let the technology lead their decisions,” says Ed Simcox, US Healthcare Practice Leader, Logicalis Healthcare Solutions. “The healthcare industry is full of instances where organizations got grants and bought telehealth equipment that now sits in a room unused because it’s not part of the clinical workflow or the culture, it’s too cumbersome and awkward, or it’s just plain hard to use and foreign to the staff. To be successful with telehealth, technology decisions must only be made after careful consideration is given to organizational use cases and clinical workflow.
Nine Steps to Successful Telehealth Implementations
Logicalis telehealth experts say following these nine steps can help healthcare CIOs take a strategic approach to the design and implementation of a successful telehealth program.
- Build an effective governance model: An effective governance model will support the planning, implementation and ongoing activities necessary to begin and sustain the telehealth program. It will also be used to resolve differences, prioritize activities and advance the well-being of the telehealth program in line with the overall values of the healthcare organization.
- Assemble multi-disciplinary telehealth teams: Depending on the organization, it may be necessary for each service line to have a focused telehealth team responsible for the tactical planning and implementation of its telehealth service offering. Key positions on this team will include a telehealth coordinator who acts as the single point of contact, a clinical champion who helps define the workflow and signs off one the clinical usability of the program, and an IT technical lead who oversees the technology aspects of the project.
- Assess the opportunities, needs and capabilities of the community and organization: Telehealth is a service, and like any service, to be successful in its market, it has to address a recognized problem and solve it in a way that reflects the character and values of both the providers of the service and its users. Start by identifying gaps in care that telehealth can meet, then determine how willing the organization’s patients are to embrace the idea of accessing medical care in new ways.
- Design the telehealth program: Hold off on the formal design of a telehealth technology solution until an appropriate needs assessment has been completed and workflow and technical requirements have been identified. And don’t let technology itself drive the telehealth program’s design. Focus instead on the specific needs that clinicians and patients are facing, and then identify the technology that can meet those needs.
- Develop a business plan and financial model: To be sustainable, telehealth solutions need to contribute positively to the bottom line of the healthcare system in one or more important ways: direct revenue, quality of care outcomes, revenue protection, productivity gains or access to growth opportunities. Alternatively, a telehealth solution might focus on achieving charitable or “community benefit” goals for non-profit healthcare systems. Defining exactly how the telehealth program is going to contribute to the bottom line is a must-have in the program’s financial plan.
- Create a project plan: A well-designed project plan will address the required tasks and milestones necessary to successfully establish the telehealth service or program in a timely manner. For this type of project, it is especially important to consider the integration of the new processes into existing clinical workflows. The project plan should also define how the technical components of the telehealth solution will be integrated and tested with current systems such as registration, scheduling, clinical documentation and other modules of the EHR.
- Develop both internal and external marketing plans: Communication is key to the success of a telehealth program, both internally and externally. In addition to garnering the support of in-house staff and existing patients, successfully marketing a new telehealth program can have the added benefit of attracting a new generation of millennial doctors for whom robust connective care capabilities are a minimum requirement for employment.
- Identify key metrics to measure outcomes: To create a relevant program, it’s crucial to identify and implement metrics that will reveal if the telehealth service is living up to expectations. Some of those metrics might include frequency of use, impact on clinical outcomes, and clinician and patient satisfaction levels.
- Design a training plan for clinicians and support staff: There is a learning curve to every new service, especially one as technical as telehealth. Therefore, it’s important to help the people who are going to use and support the organization’s telehealth services climb their respective learning curves as quickly and smoothly as possible.
To learn more, read Logicalis’ telehealth white paper, “How to Design and Implement a Successful Telehealth Program.”