How To Measure The Value Of Telehealth Program? (3 Quick Steps)
The Covid-19 pandemic has spurred a dramatic increase in virtual health care in the United States. Healthcare experts are searching for the best ways to implement and measure a successful telehealth program today.
As the pandemic ebbs, policymakers and payers are deciding whether and how much to pay for virtual care services in the future, leaving clinicians uncertain about whether they will be able to afford to continue their virtual care programs. But parties are often making these decisions based on outdated or limited measures of success that do not holistically reflect the realities of how value is being generated.
Before the Covid-19 pandemic, virtual care adoption was slow going and represented less than 1% of overall health care volume. In most cases, virtual care existed outside of the traditional health care delivery system and was often uncoordinated with in-person care.
A patient would develop a fever over the weekend and would see a virtual urgent care provider who, in most cases, was not his or her primary care provider.
Accelerated by the pandemic, we are entering an era, where in-person and virtually enabled care will be seamlessly integrated and the model of care delivery will be based on clinical appropriateness (i.e., when telehealth should and should not be used) and factors such as convenience and cost. When given the option of telehealth during the pandemic, patients largely saw their existing physicians for their needs versus a new provider.
Digitally-enabled-care models will be developed across the full range of disease acuity and all clinical conditions. The integration of new digital health solutions such as video visits, remote monitoring, asynchronous telehealth, continuous and passive sensors, and AI into digitally-enabled-care models offers the potential to provide access to high-quality care and positive patient and physician experiences at a lower cost.
While there has been much progress, the existing body of evidence for telehealth is narrowly focused on short-term measures of the financial value of virtual health. There is much opportunity to now gather details on broader benefits such as improvements in access to care, clinical outcomes, the impact on the patient and clinician experience, the potential for operational efficiencies, and the impact on health equity.
These benefits will also vary based on a wide range of factors that affect value and outcomes such as payment models, virtual care modalities (e.g., audio/visual visits, asynchronous), or the clinical use case. That’s why we developed a comprehensive framework to help stakeholders measure the various ways in which virtual care programs can generate value based on their specific imperatives.
Steps to measure the value of telehealth program
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.
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.
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.
Virtual care is here to stay. Most of the stakeholders are finding the best ways to invest in their telehealth programs and to measure their success. These 3 simple steps will help you to succeed with your telehealth program.
Measuring telehealth success does not have to be a daunting task. Having the right vendor support like the Vozo telehealth solution will not only help you to achieve patient satisfaction but also maximize practice productivity.
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