The Covid-19 health crisis of 2020 showed many patients (a.k.a., modern healthcare consumers) and many clinicians how much care can be delivered at a distance (a.k.a. telehealth). While telehealth served as a readily available stop-gap-measure in 2020, many forward thinking leaders in healthcare realize that the future of health already integrates some and inevitably will include even more virtual care modalities.

As we close out 2022, here are 12 gifts that you can give your Telehealth Program so that it can be happy and thrive for the benefit of your clinicians, your nurses, and your patients (have you seen the clinicians and patients bill of telehealth rights?)

Without further ado (but with a little music in the background), here’s how your Telehealth Program’s Christmas went. Enjoy!

On the first day of Christmas, my true lead gave to me:

One executive from your C-Suite that is accountable for the success of all your telehealth services (and not the CIO). Telehealth is first and foremost the design and rollout of a new clinical service and thereby requires executive leadership’s support to manage the organizational change.

On the second day of Christmas, my true lead gave to me:

Two leaders to lead your telehealth program: a clinician and an administrator. With telehealth being a clinical service, a clinician must be driving and leading the charge for new telehealth services. And just like at the Mayo Clinic and other healthcare organizations leading in dyads, the clinical leader must be paired up with an administrative leader with not only operational experience, but also project management acumen to oversee the launch of new telehealth services.

On the third day of Christmas, my true lead gave to me:

Three people in IT to ensure success, including a help desk lead (to promptly address those telehealth programs), a network engineer (telehealth without good connectivity is like an in-person meeting in the dark), and a workstation administrator (to keep those computers well-configured).

On the 4th day of Christmas, my true lead gave to me:

The four phases for improving a telehealth service, including Plan, Do, Study, Act: (1) Plan what you need to improve, (2) implement the changes, (3) measure and analyze the results, and (4) act on the outcomes of the analysis.

On the 5th day of Christmas, my true lead gave to me:

“Five golden plans”: A stakeholder management plan, a communication plan, a quality management plan, a risk management plan, and a change management plan. In order to make your telehealth program a resounding success, all 5 of them must be addressed, but in particular the change management plan.

On the 6th day of Christmas, my true lead gave to me:

Six degrees of separation from your technology vendor. Unless your technology vendor is also your consultant, you want to ensure that your own team or your implementation consultant is leading and driving the implementation. Many technology vendors’ goals is to get “in and out” as quickly as possible, as more time spent reduces their profit margin. Yes, you’ll want the training, but you want your IT staff to “shield” the clinicians from vendor staff that often have very little knowledge about clinical service design.

On the 7th day of Christmas, my true lead gave to me:
Seven elements of telehealth optimization:

  1. A Virtual Care Strategy
  2. A Performance Management System
  3. A Clinician Engagement Strategy
  4. Optimized Workflows
  5. A Governance & Support Structure,
  6. ATelehealth Technology Standard
  7. A Telehealth Marketing Approach
On the 8th day of Christmas, my true lead gave to me:

Eight weeks to launch your new telehealth services as a proof-of-concept. The purpose of the proof-of-concept phase is to validate assumptions, using a mindset of “what is the simplest thing that could possibly work”.

On the 9th day of Christmas, my true lead gave to me:

The nine steps of successfully launching a new telehealth service. This includes the verification of the premise through a (1) Strategic Case, (2) Business Case, and (3) Clinical Case; the design of the telehealth service, namely through the (4) Workflow, followed afterwards by the selection of the appropriate (5) Technology and definition of how to (6) Operationalize the Service; the validation through the (7) Proof-of-Concept phase; and the implementation through proactive (8) Organizational Change Management and (9) Deployment of the technology, processes, policies, etc.

On the 10th day of Christmas, my true lead gave to me:

10 change crises averted: no failed first impressions, no rumors, no resistance, no hesitance, no confusion, no anxiety, no frustration, no anger, no work-arounds, and no backsliding.

On the 11th day of Christmas, my true lead gave to me:

11 new telehealth services to launch, including: virtual express care, virtual annual wellness visits; remote physiological monitoring for readmission prevention; store-and-forward dermatological evaluations; school-based same-day virtual care; nursing home pre-admission exams; specialty access at on-site health clinics; RPM-enabled chronic disease management; specialty care access in rural clinics; and telestroke and teleICU.

On the 12th day of Christmas, my true lead gave to me:

A dashboard with 12 key performance metrics (KPIs) for the performance of your telehealth program, including patient, clinician, and staff satisfaction; utilization, no-shows, cancellations by specialty and modality; submitted, reimbursed and rejected telehealth charges; and patient miles saved, patient time saved and cancellations avoided.

The 12 Gifts of Christmas

So, here they are the 12 gifts of optimizing, expanding, and growing your telehealth services as part of your overall telehealth strategy. If you would like to sing the whole song, here are the final lyrics of the last verse:

On the 12th day of Christmas, my true lead gave to me:

12 KPIs,

11 Services A-new,

10 Crises A-verted,

9 Steps A-launching,

8 Weeks Proof of Concept,

7 Optimizations,

6 Degrees of Separation,

Five Golden Plans!

Four Improvement Phases,

Three IT Experts,

Two Leaders and,

One executive from the C-Suite.

Merry Christmas!

If you need help picking out, wrapping, and delivering any of those gifts for your Telehealth Program, reach out to me. My team and I would love to be Santa’s Helpers!

To receive articles like these in your Inbox every week, you can subscribe to Christian’s Telehealth Tuesday Newsletter.

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Christian Milaster and his team optimize Telehealth Services for health systems and physician practices. Christian is the Founder and President of Ingenium Digital Health Advisors where he and his expert consortium partner with healthcare leaders to enable the delivery of extraordinary care.

Contact Christian by phone or text at 657-464-3648, via email, or video chat.