Getting started: Telehealth and HIV
According to CDC, there were 36,801 HIV diagnoses in the United States in 2019, a 9% decline from 2015.
However, HIV continues to have a disproportionate impact on certain populations, including racial and ethnic minorities and gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Ending the HIV Epidemic initiative focuses on four key strategies to reduce the number of new HIV infections in the United States by at least 90 percent by 2030: Diagnose, Treat Prevent and Respond.
Telehealth has an important role to play in each of these strategies.
How to set up an HIV telehealth program
Before taking the first steps to create an HIV telehealth program, it’s important to ask yourself questions about what your practice is capable of.
Our guide to planning your telehealth workflow will give you more information on the business and technology basics. But there are several telehealth considerations specific to HIV care.
- How will you ensure that your HIV telehealth platform protects patient privacy and is HIPAA compliant?
- What laws does your state have about online prescribing of antiretroviral therapy (ART)?
- Are you required to have multi-state licensing to use telehealth?
- What HIV telehealth services are covered by private insurance companies and government programs, like Medicaid and Medicare, in your state?
- How will you measure staff readiness and willingness to implement HIV care through telehealth?
- How will you encourage staff who are reluctant to adopt new technology?
- How will you train staff on the new technology?
- What organizations can you partner with to increase the chance of success for HIV telehealth implementation (Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program, local laboratories, pharmacies, etc.)?
- In what specific ways will you partner with each of these organizations?
If you find it difficult to answer any of these questions, the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program can help. The program provides funding to expand organizational capacity for HIV telehealth services, connects practices with partner organizations, and more.
In particular, Part F funding supports clinician training and program development. These programs include:
- The Special Projects of National Significance Program develops, evaluates, and replicates innovative strategies and interventions for HIV care, treatment, and support
- The AIDS Education and Training Centers Program supports a network of eight regional centers and two national centers to advance interprofessional training, practice transformation, and conduct HIV training for providers
- The Minority AIDS Initiative improves access to HIV care and health outcomes for disproportionately affected populations, including black/African Americans
How to track and share the success of your program
Before you see your first telehealth patient, you will want to track your program’s effectiveness.
First, identify your program goals. That goal could be as simple as having enough HIV telehealth patients to sustain the increase in business costs.
Another goal could to reach a certain percentage increase in care for patients who are typically underserved. These patients may include rural patients, ethnic minorities and gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men.
You could also track new patients who joined your practice because of HIV telehealth care. Or offer new services via telehealth, such as screening for postpartum depression or lactation help.
Your goals will help you define your program’s key performance indicators. Your key performance indicators, often referred to as KPI, is a measure of the effectiveness and success of a business plan.
Once you determine your key performance indicators, you can use them to track the successes of your program. You can also track your progress with a spreadsheet or you can hire an analytics company to track your progress.
Other program measurement considerations
Share your successes with your patients and with your community. This is a great opportunity to talk to potential stakeholders. You can also reach more patients that could benefit from HIV telehealth care.
Get feedback. Whether your program takes off or the early data is sluggish, getting feedback is important. Ask your patients questions such as:
- What do you like about your HIV telehealth appointments?
- What do you dislike about the telehealth appointments?
- What would you change?
- What would make telehealth easier or more comfortable for you?
- What other services would you like to see offered via telehealth?
- Do you feel like your concerns were heard and addressed in your telehealth appointment?
- Would you schedule another telehealth appointment?
Telehealth for HIV Prevention and Care Services — from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
Telehealth Practitioner’s Guide for HIV Prevention and Care (PDF) — from CDC