Healthcare News & Insights

How to implement and measure the success of a telehealth program

Telehealth adoption, across a multitude of specialties, has been well underway for years. In fact, research has found that remote and video-enabled care is becoming a critical cornerstone of healthcare delivery, with over 75% of healthcare delivery organizations (HDOs) operating or planning to launch telehealth services in the year to come. In this guest post, Brian Young, director of healthcare solutions marketing, for a video interaction platform and service provider, offers guidelines that healthcare organizations can follow to ensure the success of their telehealth program.

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From checking on patients post-surgery, to minor urgent care issues such as a fever or pink eye, to chronic condition management, to mental health check-ins, the capabilities of telehealth programs have led to improved quality of life for patients with a reduction in travel time, little missed work, and thereby, overall cost savings and increased satisfaction.

While telehealth adoption has clear benefits for patients, there’s still the provider side of the equation. Hospitals and health systems know that telehealth adoption is necessary in today’s healthcare environment, but implementation without a clear path to success can lead to unprofitable results. So how can clinicians and HDOs know if their telehealth programs are successful?

Below are some guidelines that healthcare organizations can follow to ensure the success of their telehealth program.

Put goals in place

While it may seem obvious, the first step to having a successful telehealth program is to set achievable goals that align with the company’s overall business strategy, such as reducing the cost of delivering care, improving clinical efficiency, improving access to specialists or reducing revenue leakage. This needs to be done before any platforms are implemented or any contracts are signed with technology providers, so a hospital or health system knows what capabilities it needs to succeed.

While it would be nice to have, unfortunately, there’s no set template for organizations to follow when it comes to telehealth program goals. Goals are going to be different for every organization, depending on the size, audience, location and services provided. For example, the strategy of a rural hospital in Kansas will be focused on avoiding revenue leakage due to lower admission rates, while the needs of a children’s hospital in New York City focus on reducing unreimbursable readmissions due to poor follow-up care. Overall, an organization should look to evaluate which cost, care and quality drivers are most important to them, whether it’s, for example, reduced length of stay, reduced readmission rates, improved provider response times or improved population management for at-risk patients.

Evaluate the entire organization

Once initial goals are set in place, it’s important to look at the success of the telehealth program holistically. This includes looking at five key areas: clinical efficiency, utilization, technology, engagement and quality. For example, when it comes to clinical efficiency, organizations need to account for metrics, such as visit time, patient wait time and tests ordered. For technology, an organization should look at uptime, connectivity issues and latency. For engagement, health systems can look at patient and provider satisfaction. Technology shouldn’t just be looked at from one perspective of whether a video visit, for example, happened or not – there are many ways to calculate the “success” of a virtual appointment. This includes the idea of interoperability or making sure that all technologies used within the hospital or health system work seamlessly together across every division of a hospital to improve patient experiences, and make provider and patient workflows frictionless.

With these metrics in mind, healthcare organizations also need to ensure that reporting processes are set in place so they can regularly monitor the progress of telehealth programs. This data can be compiled from platform data easily received after each visit – such as visit duration – or by post-visit surveys completed by both patients and clinicians.

Future-proof your program

Finally, a telehealth program will only be as successful as its vision for the future. The goals and technology implemented need to be fluid and able to evolve as a healthcare organization grows. This includes not only setting achievable goals for their current five-year plan, but also revisiting them annually to make sure they’re aligned as the organization changes. To make sure a program is continuing a successful trajectory, healthcare organizations also need to make sure to collect data over time, so programs can be adjusted based on factual information and actual results.

To future-proof, healthcare organizations need to communicate internally and externally, so providers and patients understand the technologies available, are using them to the fullest extent and are aware of overall business goals. For example, a hospital should make sure to let clinicians and patients know that a new organization initiative is to have post-surgery follow-up appointments done via video visits to save time and costs. For the patient, this means the organization should make sure they’re set up with the platform and understand how to log in for appointments. Clinicians should understand the technology itself and that they’re looking to hit a goal of at least 50% of post-op appointments conducted via video in the first year.

As with the adoption of any technology in any industry, without the correct strategy in place it can turn a potential profit-driver into a profit loss. But by aligning program goals with your overall business strategy, accounting for ability to evolve the program over time, and putting the right reporting and measuring processes in place, a healthcare organization can be assured their telehealth program will see success.

Brian Young is director of healthcare solutions marketing at Vidyo, a video interaction platform and service provider.

 

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