What's necessary for a sustainable telehealth program?

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Developing a telehealth program requires more than just hardware, software and network system capabilities and presents more than a few hurdles, from costs to regulatory requirements to securing patient data and privacy.

As a new study reveals, creating a cost-effective sustainable teleheath strategy first requires providers and payers to understand the market and the three channels of engagement between providers, patients and communities.

"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," states a newly released EY report, called "Shaping Your Telehealth Strategy."

The insight comes as interest in telehealth continues to spiral upward. A recent study reveals the U.S. telehealth market will jump from $240 million in revenue last year to $1.9 billion by 2018, a growth rate exceeding 50 percent.

The news also arrives as debate continues on telemedicine regulations. The American Telemedicine Association has suggested some changes to the Federation of State Medical Board's proposed regulation to make remote consults as simple as in-person treatment and clear the way for docs to practice across state lines. Yet, despite the obstacles, telemedicine is expected to be as ubiquitous as video chatting with a remote friend or family member.

The EY study states the second step for developing a sustainable telemedicine strategy is defining goals and intent, which requires conducting a needs assessment.

The third aspect is creating a detailed comprehensive teleheath program design that incorporates everything from governance to human resources and revenue model to technology.

The fourth and final step is deployment and improvement, the first of which should be taken slowly, advises the study.

"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," the report's authors recommend.

The final step also requires testing, monitoring and making improvements based on user and provider feedback.

"In enabling healthcare 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," the report concludes.

For more information:
- read the report

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