Elizabeth Teisberg, Executive Director of the Value Institute for Health and Care at the University of Texas at Austin Dell Medical School, says telehealth is critical to improving value in healthcare.

ATA19: How Telehealth Can Help the Health Industry Rethink Value

Care leaders urge providers to leverage the technology as part of a broader and more holistic strategy, rather than as a means to increase volume.

Value in healthcare varies from patient to patient, but tends to fall into three categories — capability, comfort and calm — says Elizabeth Teisberg, executive director of the Value Institute for Health and Care at the University of Texas at Austin Dell Medical School.

To that end, Teisberg, who delivered the opening keynote Sunday at the American Telemedicine Association 2019 conference in New Orleans, said that it's time for healthcare organizations to stop thinking about the patient experience in terms of better parking or music in the hallways and put more emphasis on what moves the needle for patients.

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Telehealth, she said, is a tool that can help in a lot of ways.

“People talk about how we’re moving from volume to value, and I kind of think we’re getting that wrong,” Teisberg said. “The move we need is not from volume to value; the point is not to downsize. We want to be able to serve everyone. We want to create high-value services and take those to volume and make that the norm. That’s the road of telehealth.”

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Innovation Impacts Quality of Life and Dignity of Death

Currently, Teisberg said, we’re not getting enough value from our healthcare system. Part of that, she said, is because of the slow pace of innovation in the industry; she said it’s repeated often that it takes 17 years for an innovation to go from the first trial into the average practice.

“It’s so important. It’s quality of life and dignity of death, and it affects all of us,” Teisberg said. “How are we letting the innovation in this critical sector of the economy be so slow?”

That’s where a new approach to value comes into play, she said. Fundamentally, organizations would benefit by thinking about value from a holistic standpoint, emphasizing both better outcomes and patient preferences.

“The fundamental question we need to ask our patients is, ‘How are you?’” said Teisberg, who emphasized that care needs to be relationship-centered. “Living in good health is inherently less expensive than living in poor health.”

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Focus Telehealth Efforts on Delighting Patients

Speaking during another session on Sunday, University of Utah Health’s Clinical Operations Officer Nate Gladwell agreed with Teisberg. Telehealth, he said, is just one tool that needs to be part of a larger patient care strategy focused on delighting patients.

“If you’re launching direct-to-consumer, you have to find out how and why you’re doing it,” Gladwell said. “You need to focus on your job to be done; if your job to be done is to just get more people through the door, I think you’re using the wrong product for that.”

Instead, Gladwell said, telehealth should be used to create a better experience, such as easing follow-up after surgery, rather than requiring a patient to take a chunk of time out of their day for what ends up being a quick visit. More than 80 percent of patients surveyed who have leveraged Utah’s virtual visits have said they are extremely satisfied, he said.

“Schlepping patients in just to say everything looks great after two minutes is not the way to go,” Gladwell said.

Keep this page bookmarked for articles from the event. Follow us on Twitter @CDW_Healthcare, as well as the official organization account, @AmericanTelemed, and join the conversation using the hashtag #ATA19.

Dan Bowman
Apr 15 2019

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