With research showing that telehealth ranks as one of the top four IT investment priorities for healthcare delivery organizations, it’s safe to say that telehealth in the U.S. has officially become mainstream.
Telehealth has many benefits for both patients and healthcare providers. Patients benefit from not having to leave their homes for post-surgery monitoring, chronic illness management and myriad other situations. Those living in rural areas benefit from access to doctors and specialists without expensive and time-consuming travel.
Moreover, telehealth solutions can address some of the toughest pain points facing providers today, including staffing shortages, patient satisfaction and wait times, and the number of hospital readmissions.
As telehealth adoption becomes a necessity in today’s healthcare environment, hospitals and health systems are looking for a clear path to success for their telehealth programs. But how does one measure success? These three steps can get any provider organization on its way.
Step 1: Have a Goal for Your Telehealth Program
The first step to any successful telehealth program is to set realistic ambitions that align with your organization’s overall business strategy. Creating specific goals and putting them in place before signing a contract with a technology provider or implementing a telehealth platform ensures that the hospital or health system gets the right tools it needs to achieve success.
It is also important to keep in mind that no two telehealth programs are the same. Just like a hospital in rural Alaska will have a different strategy than a hospital in Los Angeles, goals will be different for every organization depending on the size, patient population, location and services provided. If you are struggling to identify these goals, look to the cost, care and quality drivers that mean the most to your organization.
Additionally, after setting the organizational goals, look for a telehealth provider that can be easily integrated into your existing clinical workflow. The use of telehealth technology is the first step toward meeting your goals and achieving telehealth success — having technology that allows both providers and patients to easily begin a video consultation without having to launch a separate application can help ensure adoption.
Step 2: Evaluate the Entire Healthcare Organization
Once the goals are in place, it is important to take a holistic look at your telehealth program. Five key areas to look at and create metrics around are:
- Clinical efficiency: visit time, patient wait time and tests ordered
- Use: number of visits or percentage of clinicians using the solution
- Technology: uptime, connectivity and latency
- Engagement: patient and provider satisfaction
- Quality: process and outcomes measurements
Each area should be examined from multiple perspectives since there are many different ways to calculate the success of a virtual appointment.
Keeping these metrics in mind, healthcare organizations need to ensure that reporting processes are set in place to regularly monitor the progress of the telehealth program. Luckily, this information can be compiled from platform data received after each visit or by post-visit surveys completed by both patients and clinicians. Collecting data and tracking against year-to-year goals allows healthcare organizations to adjust their telehealth programs based on factual information and actual results.
Step 3: Allow Room for Changes
As a healthcare organization grows, its strategic goals can change, so it is important to ensure that your telehealth program is flexible enough to evolve with the organization. As mentioned above, setting achievable goals is the first step toward ensuring the success of a telehealth program, but it is also important to revisit those goals each year to ensure they are still aligned with the objectives of the overall organization.
Healthcare organizations need to communicate both internally and externally to make sure patients and providers understand the technologies available through the telehealth program and are using them to the fullest extent. It is also important to make sure that both patients and providers understand the goals of the telehealth program.
For example, a hospital should ensure that both clinicians and patients know that a new initiative has been set in place to have post-surgery follow-up appointments done via video to save cost and time. On the patient side, this means the organization should take the time to make sure they are set up with the telehealth platform and know how to sign on for their appointment. Meanwhile, clinicians need to understand the technology itself and the overall organizational goal of, for example, conducting at least 50 percent of post-op appointments by video per year.
Measuring the success of a telehealth program does not have to be a daunting task. Having a strategy in place prior to implementation ensures that the program is not only successful in terms of patient satisfaction, but is also a profit-driver for the organization.