To drive your telehealth strategy, answer one simple question

July 25, 2019

It seems simple, but hospitals and health systems looking to expand their telehealth capabilities and services must first answer why telehealth is a solution for their organizations, patients and communities, said Kevin Curtis, MD, medical director of Dartmouth-Hitchcock Center for Telehealth and Connected Care, at a recent AHA Executive Forum on addressing disruption through innovation and value in Boston.

According to an AHA brief, the worst answer is too many answers. While telehealth can help organizations solve a variety of problems, including addressing gaps in care delivery, increasing capacity and access, increasing patient and/or provider convenience, addressing workforce shortages and improving reputation, failing to select the top one or two primary problems can derail telehealth implementation.

“If you say [you want to impact] everything, you’ll have a hard time designing the telehealth program you want,” said Curtis, who cited Harvard Business School’s Michael Porter’s oft-cited words, “the essence of strategy is choosing what not to do.”

Dartmouth-Hitchcock defined its top objective for telehealth squarely around access: to help deliver outstanding care to the region independent of patient location.

“What did we decide not to do, all of which there was a need for and a potential benefit for?” asked Curtis. “We said, we’re not doing direct to consumer. We’re not doing remote patient monitoring.”

When the system opened its Center for Telehealth and Connected Care in 2012, its initial offering of telestroke and telespecialty e-consults to rural providers reflected the focus on increasing capacity and access. Today, the center offers seven provider-to-provider telehealth services.

AHA says Hospitals that don't address patients increasing desire to receive healthcare services digitally “will be challenged by new market entrants and other disruptors that seek to attract new healthcare consumers and encroach on existing patient-provider relationships.”

For more on the current state of telehealth and how to inform your telehealth strategy, read the AHA Center for Health Innovation Market Insights report Telehealth: A Path to Virtual Care.