Shaping your telehealth strategy
Telehealth is defined as the use of technology to deliver health care, health information or health education at a distance. Sometimes referred to as telemedicine, e-health or e-medicine, telehealth is the all-inclusive term for the world of virtual care delivery.
Interest in telehealth technologies and services is intensifying in the health care industry, and the telehealth market is expected to grow significantly in the coming years.
The anticipated surge is due in part to factors such as:
- The current physician shortage
- An expanded patient base under the US Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act
- A growing interest in population health management
Key also to the move toward telehealth are efforts to put consumers at the center of their own health care — maximizing the power of technology innovations for virtual care, where patients can get the care they need where and when they need it.
In looking to extend capabilities and patient interactions beyond traditional care settings, health care providers are developing integrated strategies for adopting telehealth technologies. This comes as more payers and employers begin to pay for these services and as the value of these tools is increasingly quantified.
In this Health Care Industry Post, we look at how the industry is leveraging telehealth technologies, as well as strategic considerations for organizations seeking to launch a sustainable telehealth program.
Understanding the value proposition
With telehealth technologies, providers can deliver quality care at a lower cost, a critical imperative in the accelerating era of value-based payment. Other key benefits include:
- Increasing access to care and reaching new markets
- Reducing emergency room visits and hospitalizations
- Enabling collaboration and optimizing resources
- Advancing patient-centered care
Overcoming the obstacles
While other industries have readily transformed their business models with digital advancements, high investment costs and uncertain return on investment have created a tenuous economic model for digital expansion in the health care industry. Other unique obstacles include:
- Dealing with limited reimbursement and reimbursement challenges specific to Medicare, Medicaid and private payers
- Complying with multiple state laws
- Ensuring privacy and security of patient information
Building a sustainable telehealth program
A sound telehealth program considers three overlapping and mutually reinforcing channels for market engagement — patients, providers and communities — all of which are enabled by infrastructure synergies.
Telehealth programs are more likely to succeed when they integrate appropriate services across channels to build multi-faceted relationships with patients, referring physicians and health system partners.
Taking it step by step
Highlighted below are the four key phases and corresponding steps of telehealth program development, all designed to lead to a scalable, financially viable enterprise solution.
- 1. Know your market
Scan external trends to understand telehealth growth opportunities, economic return and execution risk. Consider:
- Macro trends. Assess market size, competitors and their value propositions, as well as reimbursement and other industry trends that impact telehealth delivery.
- Technology trends. Analyze the range of telehealth solutions and supporting technologies available in the market, including their requirements, potential for integration with current systems, and security parameters.
- Customer trends. Capture the stratification of patient and clinician needs and telehealth opportunities along traditional lines — demographic, disease and geographic — from the perspectives of patients, providers and payers.
- Channel analysis. Explore go-to-market and access channel differences by comparing the alignment of care delivery and financing stakeholders. Identify win-win perspectives and channels that align value preferences.
- 2. Set your strategic intent
Define what telehealth success means to your organization, including:
- Community needs. Conduct a needs assessment to identify and prioritize potential telehealth activities that will match gaps in services. Identify how your telehealth program will provide a solution to current challenges.
- Organizational alignment. Assess how your telehealth program aligns with your organization’s overall mission, vision, values and culture.
- Assess your capabilities against market opportunities.
- 3. Design your telehealth program
Leveraging the input of a multidisciplinary group of stakeholders, detail all dimensions of your telehealth program, including:
- Revenue model
- Human resources
- Processes and policies
- 4. Implement and improve
Start slowly and roll out the program in phases.
- Map your timeframe. Create an implementation timeline, allowing ample time for securing executive and clinician support; ordering, installing and troubleshooting equipment; training staff; and ensuring required credentialing.
- Test. Test care and technology plans before full launch through a pilot program with a limited number of patients and staff. Revise protocols and technology as needed before full launch.
- Measure. Quantify return on investment. Develop tools to evaluate patient and provider satisfaction and to collect data about service users.
- Continuously improve. Integrate changes into your program based on consumer and provider feedback.
Moving into the future
As the nation moves from uncoordinated, volume-based delivery of health services to an integrated, patient-centric, value-based model, the industry’s future will hinge on its ability to achieve higher quality care, improved patient outcomes and lower costs.
In enabling health care organizations to provide “anytime, anywhere” care to patients, operate more efficiently and cost effectively, and generate new sources of revenue, telehealth programs are an important part of the strategy to achieve these goals.