Your Telehealth Strategy Can Be Found In Your Community Needs Assessment

Putting Your Plan Together

Many times when consulting with customers who are looking to initiate a telemedicine program, we often hear ‘where do I start?’. Just like in any daunting task, creating the will power and momentum to take the first step of 1,000 step journey is always the toughest one. As part of this industry since 2007, I have seen the success and failure of many telehealth initiatives. Failure can come from multiple angles, particularly from a technology perspective. However when it comes to identifying the strategic objectives that are to be accomplished by creating a telemedicine program, it makes the technology decision much easier.  We always suggest taking a look at the needs of the overall organization and the population they serve.

By performing a telemedicine readiness and/or maturity assessment, we can help them more succinctly hone in on what is needed by the community and map it to the technologies available. Often by looking outside of the traditional players, we can bring new and disruptive technologies that accomplish what some existing platforms can’t, and they can do it at a higher value and lower price point.

In working very closely with our technology and vendor partners we see a lot of unique use cases for telehealth technology. Despite having been at this for more than ten years, I am always astounded by the things that I did not think of more than anything else. Having those great relationships and open lines of communication allows us to think differently about how to utilize telehealth technologies to help achieve strategic initiatives for our customers.

The First Step Of Your Journey

In regards to the ‘Where do I start?’ question, I make it a required practice to review the Community Needs Assessment or the Community Health Improvement Plan for the health system we are working with along with those the same documents for their corresponding county Departments of Public Health (when available).

In a lot of ways, it is very similar to reading a public corporate filing (a 10-K annual report or a 10-Q quarterly report). It will tell you everything you need to know about where an organization is doing well and what their challenges and threats are. In regards to a hospital or healthcare organization, these documents will reveal many keys to elevating the overall health of the community populace and census.

Just as a house is built brick by brick, your telemedicine program should also be built one service line at a time. This will help to enable you to define and refine workflows and then apply those best practices to the next service line as made evident by your Community Needs Assessment.

 After reviewing the Community Health Improvement Plan with one of our customers we were able to determine the foundational service lines for the telehealth program initiative. Through working with a cross-functional team, we were able to come up with a detailed plan for establishing their new telemedicine program. Once the strategic initiatives and associated service lines were identified and in place the technology that would serve the need became very clear.

As you can see from the attached graphic, we made a “Mapping Technology to Strategic Initiatives” slide that literally drew the lines between what was in the community health improvement plan and the technology that would help close the care gaps and achieve organizational readiness.

 

By looking at the documented and officially stated goals from a Community Needs Assessment, we can provide that much more value by not only offering the technologies to support our customer’s telemedicine program but ensuring that the IT dollar spend is clearly focused on organizational goals. This provides a good basis to start a meaningful conversation around utilizing telehealth technologies to solve strategic health initiatives not only for the healthcare organization but also for those in support the wider community through population health management.

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