Telehealth — or connected health, as some call it — takes different forms depending on the provider organization and their strategy. The primary driver may be extending geographic reach by providing telehealth services to rural areas. Or it may be largely a focus on consumer engagement.
Regardless, there are common themes for successful initiatives. Based on my experience in several healthcare systems in recent years, I offer these tips for success:
- Strategy is key. The organization must first determine what the key drivers are for the initiative. Is it to extend reach or provide an easier patient experience or a combination?
- Tactics and specific programs will follow. Once the strategy is clear, which specific clinical services and offerings are needed the most will become clear.
- Physician leadership is needed. If the focus is on extending reach of certain clinical services, physicians are at the center and must provide overall direction. For consumer-focused services, ambulatory services or strategic planning leadership may play a more central role.
- Operational issues and decisions must be considered early on. There are legal and billing factors along with workflow issues for clinicians and staff to work out before any implementation.
- Governance and prioritization is needed. By now it should be clear who needs to be involved in oversight and prioritizing of programs within the overall initiative. Physician leaders, ambulatory, strategic planning, legal, revenue cycle and IT must all be part of this effort.
- Common platform and tools to the extent possible. Before there is a formal organization wide initiative, multiple efforts may spring up with different tools in different clinical services. Establishing a common platform and standard tools to deploy will be more cost effective over time and allow for more efficient support.
- Leverage the core EHR vendor. Before investing in one off solutions that need to be integrated, you need to fully understand what your core EHR vendor provides and what their product roadmap looks like for this rapidly evolving market.
- Commit and invest. Senior leadership needs to be willing to invest money and resources to launch and support programs.
- Pilot and refine before scaling up. Technology and workflows need to be thoroughly tested and refined based on user feedback before broad rollout at scale.
I’m fortunate to have worked with Dr. Joseph Kvedar, VP of Connected Health at Partners HealthCare, when I served as CIO at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. He is a thought leader and practitioner in this space. I’ve learned a lot from him over the years as he and his team have experimented with and deployed various products and services. He writes a blog and hosts an excellent Connected Health Conference every October in Boston.
Unlike Dr. Kvedar, I am not an expert in this field. But these tips learned from experience at multiple organizations should help ensure success for whatever direction and focus your connected health initiative takes.