Developing an emergency department telehealth strategy
Developing a new telehealth service involves extensive planning for implementation as well as a forward-looking strategy that covers evaluation and sustainability. Investing in the planning part of your process will help you anticipate and prepare for the work ahead.
Creating a telehealth plan
There are many business needs to consider and decisions to make as part of your planning process. Your plan may include how you will:
- Assess patient needs during the development of your new program.
- Define the scope of your service.
- Design your program (hiring, training, workflows, infrastructure and IT needs, communication with staff, communication with your community).
- Create a roadmap for implementing your new services or for scaling up existing programs.
- Develop your evaluation strategy to measure your program’s impact on the communities you serve.
- Monitor your program and make adjustments.
- Find funding for your new program.
- Sustain your program in the short and long-term.
More information about planning:
- 15 Key Steps for Creating a Business Proposal to Implement Telemedicine — from the National Consortium of Telehealth Resource Centers
- Telehealth Program Development Series — from the South Central Telehealth Resource Center
- Business & Finance — from the Southwest Telehealth Resource Center
- The 411 on Telehealth Funding (video) — from the National Consortium of Telehealth Resource Centers
- Telehealth rapidly scales up during the pandemic to provide care to patients in the safety of their homes — from the Medical University of South Carolina
Evaluating your telehealth program
After you have developed your overarching telehealth plan, adopting an evaluation framework will help you:
- Measure the impact of your program
- Support long-term sustainability
- Identify areas for improvement
There are multiple existing models to help you develop your own evaluation framework, these typically cover quality of care, access, cost, provider satisfaction, and patient satisfaction. These frameworks can also help you compare your metrics against those in programs that don’t use telehealth.
Once you have your evaluation framework, you will need to figure out how to incorporate it into your day-to-day activities. Integrating it into your electronic health record (EHR) systems is ideal. The more innovative the program, the more important it is to closely monitor it. This will help you make quick adjustments if your program isn’t performing to your standards.
More information on evaluating your program:
- Creating a Framework to Support Measure Development for Telehealth — from the National Quality Forum
- Module #5: Evaluation Considerations for Telehealth Programs — from the Rural Health Information Hub
- Research Tools — from the Rural Telehealth Research Center
- Your Path to Telehealth Success: CTRC’s Telehealth Program Developer Toolkit™ — from the California Telehealth Resource Center
- Telehealth Assessment — from the National Rural Health Resource Center
- Identifying Measures and Data Elements for the HRSA Evidence-Based Tele-Emergency Network Grant Program — from the Rural Telehealth Research Center
- Grant Funding for Telehealth Programs — from the Rural Health Information Hub
- Improving Access to High Quality Sepsis Care in a South Dakota Emergency Telemedicine Network (PDF) — from the Rural Telehealth Research Center
Planning for sustainability
If you’re starting or expanding your telehealth program during the COVID-19 public health emergency, many policies and billing flexibilities make this easier. Since these are subject to change, it’s also important to plan for the future.
More information about sustainability:
- e-Consult Sustainability — from the National Policy Center - Center for Connected Health Policy
- Policy & Sustainability — from the Southwest Telehealth Resource Center
- Module 6: Sustainability of Rural Telehealth Programs — from the Rural Health Information Hub
- Defining and Deploying an Open-Access Telehealth Network in South Carolina (PDF) — from the Medical University of South Carolina