Strategy is one of those business concepts that either gets you excited or leaves you irritated because it is so overused. Even the picture for this article is somewhat a comical caricature of the concept of overcoming a gap.

Yet strategy, “a plan of action to achieve a specific goal”, is always present when action is happening, whether it is explicit or not. And I’d rather have my strategy to be explicit rather than just doing “whatever”.

A great telehealth strategy defines and describes at least six different elements and in this week’s article I’d like to provide some questions to ask of your telehealth strategy.

A Solid Telehealth Strategy

The primary objective of a Telehealth Strategy is to facilitate making good decisions about a healthcare organization’s telehealth services. Decisions made by leaders, decisions made by staff, decisions made by patients. A good Telehealth Strategy helps the leaders of an organization to deploy their scarce and valuable resources onto the right projects.

A Telehealth Strategy motivates the whole organization to participate in achieving its goals.

The six key elements of a solid Telehealth Strategy are:
  1. A Telehealth Vision
  2. Strategic Alignment
  3. Telehealth Objectives
  4. Sustainability Model
  5. Marketing Plan
  6. Telehealth Roadmap

The following sections describe the key hallmarks of each element and by assessing your own Telehealth Strategy elements you can identify any gaps you may want to close to improve your Telehealth Strategy.

Telehealth Vision

The first hallmark of a great Telehealth Strategy is a vision that inspires, is meaningful, and is easy to understand. Adapting and integrating telehealth services into the traditional care model is a huge change. A great Telehealth Vision can help everyone understand why telehealth is so important to the organization and to its patients.
1. Does your Telehealth Vision inspire or excite?

2. Is your Telehealth Vision meaningful in the context of your

organization’s vision?

3. Is the vision straightforward and simple to understand?

Telehealth Objectives

Just with any other strategy, the objectives define the various important goals that together will help achieve the vision. In excellent Telehealth Strategies, these objectives are defined as S.M.A.R.T. goals, i.e., goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable and Relevant with their accomplishment being Time-bound.
4. Are your Telehealth Objectives S.M.A.R.T Objectives — specific, measurable,
achievable, relevant, and time bound?

Strategic Alignment

The concept of Strategic Alignment is about leveraging telehealth to achieve the objectives of your organization’s overall strategy. A great Telehealth Strategy explicitly points to the numerous benefits of telehealth that contribute to achieving the organization’s overall strategic objectives. Telehealth has a much higher chance of succeeding if it is understood how telehealth can help achieve the organization’s most important goals.
5. Have you mapped your Telehealth Objectives to your Strategic Objectives?

Telehealth Sustainability Model

There are three types of sustainability to consider: financial sustainability, clinical sustainability, and organizational sustainability.

Financial sustainability is concerned with the tactics to ensure a positive return on investment either through direct revenue or indirect benefits, such as referrals, avoided penalties, avoided cost, etc.

Clinical Sustainability is the concept that the telehealth services must produce similar or better outcomes than the traditional care delivery models, such as in-person care. Without clinical merit, telehealth is not sustainable. This aspect requires the close engagement of an organization’s clinicians.

Finally, Organizational Sustainability addresses the fact that the introduction and integration of telehealth into the traditional care delivery model is first and foremost an effort in organizational change management. Therefore proven Change Management techniques or frameworks should be applied to ensure the long-term success of telehealth.

6. Do you have a defined approach to achieve Financial Sustainability?
7. Have you sufficiently engaged your clinicians to set the stage
for
Clinical Sustainability?
8. Have you selected a set of proven organizational change management
approaches to enhance the probability of
organizational sustainability?

Marketing Plan

Marketing telehealth is more about raising awareness and giving both patients and clinicians the opportunity to make an informed decision as to whether to receive/deliver care “at a distance”. The most effective marketing is for clinicians to offer telehealth as an option to their patients, yet the messaging around telehealth also needs to be present across all channels (website, newsletters, in-clinic posters, etc.)
9. Do you have a plan on how and where to promote the availability
of telehealth services?

Telehealth Roadmap

Last but certainly not least, the Telehealth Roadmap puts all of the other elements of a telehealth strategy together. In essence, the roadmap is a sequenced, prioritized list of the various initiatives you need to undertake along with the telehealth services your organization plans to optimize, grow, or launch over the next 6-24 months. The roadmap provides guidance as to when certain initiatives are intended to be launched.
10. Do you have a prioritized, scheduled list of telehealth-related initiatives
and telehealth services to grow, optimize, or launch?
Closing the Gap

While not all six aspects may be equally important to your organization, the process of going through and answering the 10 questions above is a valuable tool from which you can receive a lot of just-in-time guidance on which aspects of your telehealth strategy to improve on.

I recommend that you get your core leadership team together and discuss your answers to the 10 questions above to make a decision on which aspects of your telehealth strategy you’d like to improve. Or you can also reach out to us to assist in the facilitation of this gap analysis process.

Once you understand the gap, you can quickly leap to close it and improve what you have.

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.