The Growth Channel

You're probably measuring telehealth ROI wrong. Use these 6 metrics to do it right.

by Tracy Walsh and Cara Goerlich

You're likely among the 83% of providers who plan to invest in telehealth this year. But do you have the right framework to evaluate this investment? According to REACH Health, only 16% of providers have been "highly successful" in achieving financial returns from telehealth.

The biggest culprit behind this trend is reimbursement. While Medicaid and private payers increasingly cover telehealth services, coverage doesn't always translate to reliable or equal payment relative to in-person services. Given reimbursement challenges, planners who focus solely on direct billable revenue may narrow program impact and neglect other benefits.

To help you evaluate the financial impact of virtual care across modalities, we've outlined select metrics that complement direct revenue and alternatively measure telehealth's effect on program performance.

Real-time virtual visits: Protect and diversify your brand

Real-time, virtual visits can attract new consumers and retain existing patients. Go beyond direct revenue and consider how your platform advances brand impact and encourages patient loyalty. Consider the following metrics:

  • Downstream referrals: Ideally, a real-time virtual visit platform doesn't just guide new patients into the system; it spurs subsequent use of other in-network services. Downstream referral rate and corresponding revenue can measure platform contribution to brand loyalty.

  • Existing patient retention rates: Real-time virtual visits meet the consumer desire for accessible, on-demand care and may help retain current patients otherwise drawn by cost or convenience elsewhere. Existing patient retention rates assess whether virtual care prevents patient leakage, promoting long-term consumer engagement with your organization.

Asynchronous store-and-forward: Enhance efficiency

Although asynchronous store-and-forward is the least favorably reimbursed modality, providers use these platforms to streamline their workflows. Greater communication allows staff to provide top-of-license care and reallocates specialists' time toward hands-on activities. To establish the business case for asynchronous store-and-forward, home in on efficiency gains with these metrics:

  • Time-to-consult fulfillment: The more quickly providers reply and fulfill requests for care guidance, the greater your time savings. To evaluate operational benefits for your asynchronous store-and-forward solution, benchmark time duration between consult request and provider response against less dynamic platforms, such as telephone and in-person visits.

  • Diagnostic accuracy: Don't sacrifice quality for expediency. Measure diagnostic accuracy to ensure that your platform both promotes efficiency and consistently resolves presenting conditions.

Remote patient monitoring: Manage your population health enterprise

By maintaining contact with patients, remote patient monitoring may achieve cost savings from reductions in avoidable care use. To demonstrate how this modality affects your balance sheet, emphasize metrics that calculate short-term penalty avoidance and tap into value-based payment opportunities:

  • Readmissions rate: By remotely tracking patient status, providers can use remote patient monitoring to intervene when necessary and avoid care escalation. Measure your readmissions rate to evaluate how your remote patient monitoring program prevents penalties and keeps patients at home, freeing up bed space.

  • Patient adherence to treatment plan: Among patients with chronic conditions or those recovering from surgery, remote patient monitoring platforms frequently include checklists and reminders to help patients follow care instructions. Tracking treatment adherence demonstrates how your program impacts health behavior and positions your organization for downstream cost savings.

Why telehealth technology isn't enough

There are dozens of telehealth technologies to choose from. But planners who start by asking, "What technology should I invest in?" are focusing on the wrong question.

Technology is a tool that enables strategy, not a stand-alone solution. To build a successful strategy that effectively leverages telehealth technology, download our infographic to learn the three target questions you'll need to answer.

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