At the recent American Telemedicine Association’s annual conference in Chicago, healthcare providers were offered insight into five key measures that are vital to a successful telemedicine program, as described by Afua Branoah Banful, MD, an expert in growth strategies focused on hospitals and health systems. Ignoring any of these can cause an organization to stumble into telemedicine pitfalls that can doom a telemedicine program from the start.
According to Banful, when it comes to deploying new telemedicine programs, the following actions can help maximize the program’s success:
- Translating strategy into tactical goals – Clarifying the end goal is important.
- Segmenting the population – Organizations should target groups that can support their goals.
- Choose flexible technology – Technology partners and devices should be chosen with long-term needs in mind.
- Operationalize mindfully – When making the program operational, organizations should account for resources carefully.
- Follow the Three M’s: Measure, Market, and Manage – Measure the impact of the program, market to both consumers and providers, and take a balanced approach to managing performance.
Banful described some examples of how organizations might dismiss this advice. For instance, some groups prioritize the method over the end goal, leading to poor execution. Rather than focusing on “telehealth strategy,” discussions should center around goal clarification, she suggested.
In another case, a provider that doesn’t operationalize mindfully might view a telemedicine deployment as a project to complete during spare time, causing operational teams to work double and triple time to launch the program. As Banful explained, a telemedicine deployment is costly in terms of time and resources; organizations may balk at the up-front cost, but if they try to get by with “just a little” in the beginning, they’ll end up paying a lot more later on. Investing wisely at launch time can help produce the desired outcomes and set the stage for future successes.
Another warning sign, said Banful, is an organization that does not choose technology with a long game in mind; such an organization “doesn’t get it.” As she pointed out, telemedicine technology is not something that is built once. Rather, the present and future needs have to be balanced when selecting technology.
Overall, Banful emphasized that organizations should keep an open mind when contemplating telemedicine: “If you’re going to do telemedicine, you might as well do it well.”