The Growth Channel

3 keys to getting telehealth investment right

by Laurie Sprung and Cara Goerlich

If telehealth strategy is at the top of your planning to-do list this year, you're not alone. With recent shifts in Medicare reimbursement and FDA approval of several wearable devices within the past year, providers are deciding whether to double down on telehealth investment. 

But telehealth investment doesn't always lead to financial success—which is why you need a thoughtful strategy in place tailored to the specific needs of your system and market. To achieve a positive ROI, planners must evaluate market readiness, map potential applications to existing system goals, and root ROI metric selection in program ambition.      

Base investment decisions on market readiness—not national enthusiasm

When planners begin considering a telehealth investment, the first question is often, "Which service line should we start with?" However, not all markets are equal on telehealth adoption status, so planners must first understand market readiness to decide on the right timeline.  

To do so, consider three key factors. First, outline your service area's regulatory environment. Remember to consider reimbursement potential and whether state practice standards align with virtual workflows on informed consent, online prescription, and provider eligibility. Second, assess the unique characteristics of your market's patients, considering if consumers are especially convenience-oriented or in need of easier care access. Finally, evaluate competitive dynamics, understanding whether other providers have already engaged in telehealth.

Get our primer on telehealth policy in your state

Select telehealth applications based on existing system goals

Organizations should next understand how telehealth investment fits into broader consumer, access, and care management goals—and which applications can help you reach these goals. For example, if your organization sees telehealth as a cost-cutting lever, focus on the service lines driving up avoidable ED use or length of stay. Then, find an application that addresses these issues in a clinically appropriate way. For instance, real-time, virtual visits that link ED patients to remote psychiatrists can reduce wait times, improve throughput, and cut cost.   

And here's a pro tip: When making these decisions, elicit the feedback of system stakeholders. Without doing so, telehealth adoption may lack momentum, risking slow adoption and negative ROI.

Root ROI metric selection in program ambition

ROI is a financial measure – but it also serves as a gauge for how well your investment meets organizational goals. And as the goals underlying your proposed telehealth investment vary, the metrics you choose to measure ROI with will, too.

As such, select metrics that capture the discrete benefits of your telehealth investment ambition. Take, for example, an organization aiming to attract convenience-oriented consumers. Here, you'll want to select metrics, like downstream referrals, that emphasize potential new business. If instead your goal is to generate cost savings, you'll want to evaluate your investment using metrics like unnecessary care avoidance or readmission rate reduction.

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Only after you've 1) evaluated market readiness, 2) mapped applications to system goals, and 3) decided on your ROI metrics, you can start tackling your implementation strategy. Find out how we can help you get started, by evaluating the strategic, financial, and operational considerations associated with a telehealth investment.

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Consumers are ready for specialty virtual visits. Are you?

Our Virtual Visit Consumer Choice Survey of nearly 5,000 consumers across the United States found that most consumers are willing to use virtual visits for select specialty care services.

This infographic breaks down which specialty care services consumers prefer to access virtually, as well as their top concerns with virtual visits, so you know where to focus your telehealth investment strategy.

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