Insights Into The Timely Implementation Of A Telehealth Program

With my silver anniversary in telemedicine approaching, I have often been asked, “What is the primary key to the timely implementation of a telehealth program?”  Overwhelmingly, I feel that the main driver is a sense of “urgency” driving the decision-makers.

Having participated in both sides of the decision process, as the buyer or the vendor partner, I have seen both the aligning and often competing priorities of those positions. On the purchaser side, there is the position that time leads to better decisions, more advantageous pricing, and greater Return on Investment. On the seller side, there is the belief that time leads to reduced revenue or margins due to concessions to induce acceptance and consummation of the relationship. At the very least, there is a higher cost of sales due to additional time and resources allocated to complete the partnership.  These competing considerations often unnecessarily prolong the evaluation, decision-making, and acquisition process.

Over the past year and a half, with the increased demands of limited healthcare resources due to the Covid 19 pandemic, telemedicine and telehealth have shown their tremendous value to physicians, hospitals, health systems, and patients in providing positive patient outcomes and efficiencies.  As a result, the demand for telehealth services has skyrocketed in almost all specialties.  The increased use and need of health services due to Covid 19, whether hospital or physician-office based, has accelerated the acceptance and long lingering issues related to telemedicine implementation.  These are matters, items, and “promised” projections that have been identified, known, and continually addressed for the several decades this writer has been in healthcare.  These include:

  • Regulation barriers of physician licensing and the challenges of providing care over state lines and geographic boundaries.
  • Telehealth models that previously may be somewhat limited in a “normal” healthcare environment. For instance, Covid has allowed some patient/physician consultations to be reimbursable or payable that did not exist prior to 2020.
  • Payment and reimbursement of telemed services. While such financial changes were certainly being implemented on a somewhat limited basis, Covid has demanded a broader, more rapid, and inclusive approach
  • Expanded and broader use of software and hardware packages for consideration and use in telemedicine that previously was not identified or minorly discussed. This is a good thing as the increased competitive offerings drive reduced costs and improved tools in the long run.
  • Greater use and more acceptance of telemedicine by patients. This is a tremendous boom to telemedicine as it truly does provide greater satisfaction, convenience, and efficient use of often limited local healthcare services for patients.  This truly is an “if you build it, they will come” scenario.

All these advantages and issues are now addressed in a timelier manner by government and businesses resulting in improved regulation and financial approaches for telemedicine.   This has moved the telemedicine adoption clock forward by at least 5 years for more aggressive regard of these matters.  While it is hard to see any silver lining with Covid 19, the realigned and resulting urgency of these important factors driving telehealth/medicine is indeed a wonderful “silver anniversary” capstone for me.