ATA18: How Providers Can Spot a Doomed Telemedicine Effort

Organizations looking to invest in connected health initiatives must focus on tactical goals and flexible technology.

Telemedicine deployments by providers continue to grow, but headwinds against scaled adoption also exist that have kept the technology from reaching its potential, says Afua Branoah Banful, an expert in growth strategies geared toward hospitals and health systems.

Speaking Tuesday at the American Telemedicine Association’s annual conference in Chicago, Banful described five imperatives for healthcare organizations to maximize telemedicine success:

  1. Translate strategy into tactical goals: “It’s important to understand that clarifying your goal is necessary,” she said. “To do this you need to understand your value focus.”
  2. Segment the population: Organizations must target groups that can support their desired goals.
  3. Operationalize mindfully: Users must take a thoughtful and appropriate approach that accounts for available resources when making their programs operational.
  4. Choose flexible technology: Providers must think about long-term needs when choosing technology partners and offerings. “Technology should not become the factor that limits your use case,” Banful said.
  5. Remember the Three M’s: Organizations need to measure impact, market to both consumers and providers and take a balanced approach to managing performance, she said.

Banful also described telltale indicators of potentially doomed investments, stressing that organizations must keep an open mind when considering such technology.

SIGN UP: Get more news from the HealthTech newsletter in your inbox every two weeks

Don’t Put the Telehealth Tool Ahead of the Project

For instance, instead of viewing telemedicine as an enabling tool, healthcare organizations that have poor execution view the modality as the strategy, Banful said.

The phrase “telehealth strategy” should not dominate your conversations, she stressed; if it does, you’re putting the tool before the project.

“That is akin to going to your toolbox, picking out a tool and deciding what your next huge home improvement project will be, based on the tool,” Banful said.

Instead, goal clarification should be the prerequisite for jumping into such an effort.

Learn how clinical collaboration and communication tools, including telemedicine and mobile solutions, help providers streamline patient care. 

What’s more, she said, providers that don’t operationalize mindfully typically view such a rollout as a project to complete during spare time. That can lead to operational teams needing to work double and triple time just to get an effort off the ground.

“If you’re going to do telemedicine, you might as well do it well,” Banful said. “The decision is not can we get by with just a little and still get the outcomes — it’s really, you’re paying a lot now, in both time and resources, or you’re paying a lot more later. You need to be mindful about whether this is a path that you want to take.”

Another sign that an organization doesn’t get it as far as rolling out a telemedicine initiative, said Banful, is that it fails to choose technology with a long game in mind.

“The needs of the telemedicine technology — it’s not just about building it once,” she said. “You need to balance the needs of right now and beyond.

For more, check out the articles and videos from HealthTech’s coverage of ATA18.

redrhino78/Getty Images
May 03 2018