Blog Post

3 'must-haves' for taking your telehealth program to the next level

April 5, 2018

    Telehealth adoption is rising rapidly across the nation. In fact, more than 70% of hospitals and provider groups have a telehealth program, according to a 2017 HIMSS Analytics survey. Many organizations are now exploring how to maximize the benefits of these programs to deliver better patient engagement, improve access to needed services, and engage physicians in developing new models of care.

    To this end, many providers are beginning to manage and scale telehealth at an organizational level. The 2018 U.S. Telemedicine Industry Benchmark Survey showed a nearly 20% increase in the number of highly coordinated and centrally managed programs in the last year alone. As the regulatory environment continues to remove barriers to telehealth delivery, developing your program with a strong foundation to support scale is critical to long-term success.

    If you are planning to start a new telehealth program, or weighing the benefits of elevating your service-line based offerings into an organizational level strategy, prioritizing three "must-have" elements will help you to develop a scalable and sustainable program across your organization:

    1. True physician ownership of telehealth strategy

    It's not enough to have physicians "at the table" during the design of a telehealth strategy. Empowering a physician leader with actual ownership and equal investment in the development of a telehealth strategy is absolutely essential. Re-designed care delivery is at the heart of telehealth and selecting a physician leader who is deeply invested in designing, delivering, and elevating clinical practice is the secret sauce of effective telehealth programs. Physicians' experience and insight into clinical practice is necessary to drive program efficiency and safety, and having a physician in a key leadership role will promote adoption across other providers.

    2. Executive alignment on value of telehealth

    Strong executive support is an important underpinning for programs to achieve rapid growth and scale. In fact, in conversations with telehealth program executives across the country, it frequently comes up that a telehealth program needs more than an executive sponsor—it needs a champion in the C-suite who can help identify new opportunities for telehealth to serve your mission and vision. This executive leader is often already integrated into strategic planning and operating reviews, and can help connect new opportunities and ideas to the telehealth team to support and align development. This will enable the deep and wide alignment necessary to ensure the organization is moving forward cohesively on a clear and direct path to expand telehealth services.

    3. Consistent, objective value analysis

    As the good news about telehealth value spreads within your organization, new ideas will start to flow in from multiple departments. It can be difficult to make sense of the variety of options to advance telehealth from a service line-based opportunity to a large and complex delivery model. Many organizations struggle with balancing the multitude of priorities and benefits to focus investments and resources in the most meaningful way. Early planning to develop a framework that captures and quantifies the aspects of "value" for your organization is a critical component to managing scale. This framework should evaluate different value propositions, from patient engagement and integration priorities, to quality and revenue impact. Once established, this framework will provide an apples-to-apples comparison of each opportunity to help prioritize and focus on the most impactful strategies.


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