Virtual care aligns with strategic imperatives to improve health outcomes, enhance patient safety, and optimize the patient experience for populations with medical sophistication and high healthcare needs. As a result, it will pay off if healthcare can continue the expansion of telehealth started by the COVID-19 pandemic.

One driver of effective growth of digital care services is open communication and cooperation with key stakeholders on significant initiatives that impact the virtual care procedure, said Dr. Saima Aftab, vice president, strategic initiatives, at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital in Miami, Florida.

Sustaining quality telehealth programs

“Stakeholders include internal and external clients, our patients, families and providers,” said Aftab. “Selection of technology and information tools, video platform enhancements, and process improvement initiatives are keys to sustaining and growing quality telehealth programs.  

“The COVID-19 public health emergency flexibilities and waivers, including expanded reimbursement, were pivotal facilitators that caused the rapid scaling of digital care services and allowed patients and providers to genuinely explore and embrace virtual maintenance,” she said.

While the stunt proved to be useful for understanding and overcoming telehealth barriers, using a defined virtual care workflow and framework in place has revealed to be a best practice for a successful encounter, she noted.

“Once suppliers are equipped with hardware and software needs and standardized virtual care workflows are implemented, suppliers can concentrate on patient education and creating a meaningful experience,” said Aftab. “Telehealth will play a pivotal role in the health care delivery system. The continuing success of telemedicine will be dependent on reimbursement parity and connectivity in the form of access to high-speed net. “

To generate progress, healthcare provider organizations will require telehealth data-driven and EHR-based clinical study, tools and databases, she contended.

Meaningful information, quantified and analyzed

“Virtual care doesn’t advance without meaningful data that is measured and analyzed for lessons learned on quality of care, cost and experience,” she said. “Successful programs utilize telehealth technologies for clinical decision making, and tools and databases to further increase the program. “

Nicklaus Children’s Hospital developed a technology roadmap and implemented telehealth platform enhancements with a focus on interoperability and integration with its EHR. This, along with other technology, will be used for clinical decision making.

” We are working on establishing a strong research program with core foundational infrastructure and resources,” said Aftab. “We developed a dashboard to streamline data capture and support analysis of information to examine health outcomes and translational, clinical efforts in healthcare.  

“The goals are to support telehealth scientific discovery and pioneering investigation, and provide a platform for researchers, physicians and all healthcare professionals to study outcomes and translational clinical efforts in telehealth,” she added.

As new technologies, such as remote monitoring devices, mobile devices, detectors and others, become prevalent, technology-driven healthcare services will grow, she said.

Implementing predictive analytics

“As we start to collect and save telehealth data in a standardized format, opportunities arise to apply predictive analytics,” Aftab observed. “Data collection and integration of documentation also help measure important outcomes such as improvements in access to care. “

Aftab reported that patient-centered technologies and techniques for advanced data sharing and visualization used to measure telehealth key performance indicators (KPIs) and effectiveness of process improvement methodologies also will be of significance.

“Patient-centric technology applications are essential to consumer adoption and creating a successful telehealth program,” she said. “Telehealth is a disruptive technology that reduces costs and has the opportunity to increase quality and patient satisfaction. Patient engagement and experience, listening to the voice of the customer, have to be in the forefront of scaling telehealth services. “

Provider engagement also is vital, including training programs and standardized processes, which must often be reviewed and modulated based on feedback, she added.

User support and resources

“Telehealth user support and resources should be provided through various avenues,” Aftab said. “For instance, enhancements were made in the dissemination of best practices such as a new digital workplace/communication site. Sharing educational tools, manuals and guides on patient-facing websites and employee intranet are also effective strategies. “

Key performance indicators associated with patient and supplier engagement have been crucial metrics in measuring the success of telehealth services.

“These included the effectiveness of training programs and standardized processes,” Aftab said. “A multidisciplinary team collaborated to ensure optimum accessibility and facilitate a more comprehensive and coordinated approach to care. More than 350 new suppliers in 24 pediatric specialties were trained on the telehealth platform and were engaged in virtual care.

“An important part of the process improvement journey was creating a control plan and formalized document that monitors metrics to make adjustments as needed for constant process improvement and sustainability,” she continued.  

“A telehealth dashboard was developed for clinical and research data collection and application of advanced data visualization tools and techniques, which will support research initiatives and tracking of KPIs. “

A control plan allows for organization-wide liability and ensures the implementation of a meaningful digital care plan, she added.

Continuous process improvement journey

“The organization’s continuous process improvement journey and aim to understand, automate and streamline processes incorporated state of the art technologies,” Aftab said. “Tools included and weren’t limited to application programming interfaces, Erlang-C, machine learning, natural language processing, SMS text and business intelligence data analytics.

” Additional KPIs measure enhancements to the telehealth platform for optimum data sharing, interoperability and data integration centered on encouraging EHR-based clinical study and optimizing clinical workflows and procedures. “

Call Center analytics tools were created to monitor call center metrics like call volumes, service level and abandoned call rate.

“The formulation ‘Erlang-C’ was used to predict call centre load and determine appropriate staffing to meet service levels,” she clarified. “Service level goal was determined to be 80% of calls answered within 30 seconds based on industry standard, and the goal was exceeded at 97-99%. Other metrics tracked and exceeded included reduction in abandoned call rate for the telephone center and percentage of dropped video calls. “

Aftab will offer more detail during her HIMSS21 session, “Using Technologies and Data to Drive Telehealth Excellence. “ It’s scheduled for Aug. 10, from 2-3 p.m. in Venetian Lido 3104.

Twitter: @SiwickiHealthIT
Email the writer : bsiwicki@himss.org
Healthcare IT News is a HIMSS Media publication.

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