Telehealth use continues to gain traction within the healthcare industry, with physician adoption in the U.S. up 340 percent from 2015, according to a new survey by American Well.
And at the American Telemedicine Association’s 2019 conference in New Orleans this week, former Cleveland Clinic CEO Toby Cosgrove raved about the potential of the technology for the future of healthcare, saying he thinks it will be part of people’s expectations going forward.
Still, clinicians and technology leaders believe telehealth efforts have much room to improve, from how they’re rolled out to user education. Here are three takeaways from ATA 2019 about how organizations can optimize their use of the technology.
Stay Organized and Have a Plan
Providers looking to get a telehealth initiative off the ground would be wise to follow in the footsteps of organizations like NYU Langone Health and the University of Utah Health, which were meticulous in their preparation leading up to deployment.
NYU Langone took a top-down approach, with leaders throughout the organization working to create a centralized system to serve multiple use cases. An executive steering board was created to discuss the effort monthly on a broad level, while a workgroup committee of clinical practice leaders also meets regularly to get more in the weeds about care.
Likewise, Nate Gladwell, clinical operations officer at University of Utah Health, and Dr. James Geracci, vice president and chief medical officer for Ascension, stressed that when setting out to deploy telehealth, you have to know why you’re doing it. “Just having a vendor come in and supply you with technology is not going to help you solve your problems,” Gladwell said.
Added Geracci, “When you overpromise and underdeliver, even if you have great technology that can disrupt healthcare, people get skeptical and they won’t support your efforts. I’ve seen across the presentations over the last two days some amazing technology with amazing potential, but you really have to be cautious not to rush with it.”
Focus on Value to Patients
Gladwell also said that the job of providers should not be to “just get more people through the door.” Instead, he said, organizations should work to delight their patients by creating a better experience.
To get there, patient education is key, said Erin Denholm, president and CEO of Trinity Health At Home. The program has served more than 20,000 patients in 11 states from coast to coast, and combines remote monitoring tools for patients to take home with a virtual care center staffed 24/7 by registered nurses.
Since Trinity Health At Home’s launch in April 2017, Denholm said that 98 percent of its patients are satisfied, due in part to daily check-ins, educational modules and simple connectivity.
“We’ve been able to empower patients and their families to be where they want to be, as well as improve their overall sense of control, especially for the chronic population,” she said.
Don’t Give Short Shrift to Clinician Workflow
Additionally, organizations must work to ensure as little disruption to clinician workflow as possible. Heather Meyers, director of virtual care at Boston Children’s Hospital, said that creating a plan for providers that fits into the way they provide care normally is a much better approach than forcing them to figure out the logistics of using telehealth.
“If I go to a provider and say, ‘Would you like to do telehealth?’ everyone says yes,” Meyers said. “Then I say, ‘We’re going to do this together,’ and they reply that they don’t have the time. It’s our job to figure out how to do this for them. They’re more willing to adopt [telehealth] when we give them that guidebook to do that.”
Laurie McGraw, senior vice president of health solutions for the American Medical Association, agreed with Meyers.
“It’s important to integrate technology into clinician workflow,” McGraw said. “With telemedicine, we have an opportunity to do that. Certainly we have lessons from electronic health record adoption to help us for the future.”
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