The ultimate challenge of the modern age is still that our means to communicate continues to outpace our ability. So, first things first, stop and recognize telehealth for what it is: a tool. In and of itself, it is technology that allows the practice of medicine to reach remote patients with unprecedented access. However, this emerging industry is still establishing itself and cannot afford to overlook the importance of its practitioners and their ability to work together. Let’s start with some basic guidelines that a successful telehealth agency should adhere to:
Establish organizational goals. There is no appoint in using telehealth in ways that work against the organization’s agenda or simply don’t fit.
- Assess individual cases of telehealth use. Do they align with organizational goals?
- Conduct a formal, objective assessment. Can your organization design, implement and manage telehealth programs?
- Prioritize telehealth opportunities. This should be based on existing cases and the above assessment.
- Screen potential partners. Carefully analyze the solutionsthey bring to the table.
Knowing the organization’s needs, abilities and limitations will prove invaluable when it comes time to finally implement the program. Technology will continue to advance. You must supply the framework that will support its use as the operation grows.
The framework begins with that assessment. You should be evaluating the readiness of your IT system and your ability to identify and prioritize use cases, not to mention the ability to set appropriate metrics. Be sure to identify the key success factors and risks specific to your operation.
According to the 2016 Hospitals and Health Systems Benchmark Survey, 76 percent of hospitals and health systems will have consumer telehealth programs in place by next year. The only problem is that these programs are in the infant stages. Leaders of these hospitals and health systems have no idea what to do with their telehealth programs once they’re in place. This is where strategy comes in.
As we said earlier, telehealth is a tool. Organizations that adopt telehealth will need direction. They must understand telemedicine's role within their organization. It would be an enormous waste of telehealth’s potential if its impact were to be reduced due to poor planning. With proper strategy, organizations will be able to use telemedicine for its intended purposes: improving access, improving patient engagement and reducing the cost of care.