Telehealth’s true success starts behind the scenes
Tuesday, March 17, 2015
For the last few years, telehealth has been one of the biggest buzzwords in the healthcare industry. With recent predictions indicating that the number of patients using telehealth will hit 7 million by the year 2018, businesses are scrambling to create devices that can keep up with the high demand.
Telemonitoring technologies make it possible for healthcare providers to monitor symptoms and measure vital signs remotely, and they also make it easier for patients, employees and others to manage their own healthcare better and more affordably.
In this digital age, though, it's no wonder that the devices are what garner much of the attention. It's easy to focus first on a new technology and forget all the behind-the-scenes effort that makes a telehealth program really work. However, it's precisely the operational backend that is essential to making telehealth technologies work — and work well.
Telehealth has been proven to improve overall health outcomes for chronic disease patients, reduce hospitalizations and hospital readmissions among high-risk patients, prevent acute events, support adherence to prescribed plans of care, improve patient experience, and lower costs to both patients and healthcare providers.
In fact, telehealth is set to drastically change the way the healthcare system operates in the near future. But there's much more to a successful telemonitoring and telehealth deployment than choosing the right devices.
Behind the devices: The fuel that keeps a telehealth program running
Imagine you work for an ACO, insurance provider, health system or home health agency, and a message has just come through from a telemonitoring device with vital sign readings from a patient. Now what? There's a lot more than the transmission of information that goes into implementing and successfully running a telehealth program.
Here are the other considerations:
Best practices: It is vital to understand the best practices involved in setup and implementation of telehealth technologies. The first step in the process should be determining what type of telehealth system and telemonitoring devices are right for your business.
Policies and procedures: Your next step should be to define policies and procedures needed for your telemonitoring program. It’s crucial to define what your system will measure, how often monitoring will occur, who will provide the clinical interaction and so on.
Implementation: Before a successful telehealth system can be put into place, an implementation plan must be developed. Evaluating the logistics of implementation of a telemonitoring program and your existing operations should include the following steps and questions:
- Time estimation: What will the learning curve for your new telehealth system look like? How much time will it take to train clients on how to use the new technology? How much time will it take to train employees?
- Space and functionality: How much space will the equipment take up? Where will the device(s) be housed for optimum functionality? How many telemonitoring units will you need to start your program?
Quality measures: Once you've established which telemonitoring system is right for your business, determined policies and procedures, and successfully implemented the program, it's time to think about quality measures. How will you show that your telehealth program is effective? How long will you measure before publishing your results? With a successful plan and implementation policy in place, your results should match the goals you established in the beginning — reducing readmission rates, improving client care and satisfaction, increasing marketability of your business, etc.
Operational Backend: Keeping all of your new telehealth processes, procedures, policies and best practices moving in the right direction requires a specialized skill set. It's important to be sure that you're charging the right talent with the reins to your telehealth program.
There's no debate that telehealth is an amazing technology that provides increased access to care for millions across the country, but what makes telehealth amazing is less about the devices' bells and whistles and more about what happens behind the scenes to ensure proper functioning and success.
Arming your organization with knowledge and a solid implementation strategy ahead of time will help ensure success for your telehealth program and for your patients.
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