Telehealth is defined as “delivering care at a distance” and by that definition, the launch of a telehealth service requires a mindset of launching a new healthcare service offering. Yet many organizations approach telehealth as a Health IT implementation project and are hereby overlooking the need for workflow design and organizational change management.

Over the years of leading telehealth implementation projects, we’ve identified a set of 16 common fails in setting up and rolling out a telehealth service. We’ve categorized them into sets of four across these four failure areas:

I. Project-level fails that are best remedied through proper project management.

II. People-related fails that are most easily avoided through proper organizational change management.

III. Technology-related fails that ironically are often caused by focusing too much on the technology and not enough on the people and processes.

IV. Financially-related fails caused by decisions rooted in the lack of experience of telehealth financials.

In this part, we will be covering the first 8 of the 16 ways that telehealth service rollouts can fail with some tips on how to avoid those fails.

Project-level Fails

These particular fails are not unique to telehealth and afflict many complex projects, especially those endeavors that require a change in people’s behavior.

1) Time Fail: When it took much longer for the service to be actually launched and, even more often, much longer to actually create the desired benefits. This failure is often a combination of two things: wishful thinking and an underestimation of the complexities involved in the launch of a telehealth service.

2) Budget Fail: When it cost more than budgeted. Fortunately, in telehealth rollouts we haven’t seen any of those egregious budget overruns that sometimes befall complex change initiatives in healthcare, though there can be the occasional surprises, such as not accounting for infrastructure upgrades, such as reliable WiFi connections.

3) Scope Fail: This fail is mostly in the sense that the actual service did not live up to the expectations of the results that were established at the outset. This is often the result of a combination of wishful thinking, overhyped vendor promises and a lack of experience of the project team to manage expectations.

4) Quality Fail: When the solution is unusable or not reliable. This can be related to poor choices in technology or a misconfiguration, but oftentimes is caused by inadequate training, resulting in the inappropriate use of the solution.

People-related Fails

The second set of fails concerns the stakeholders, i.e., people involved in or affected by the new telehealth service (such as clinicians, care staff, patients, or leadership). These fails are the undesired emotions that hinder the successful launch of the telehealth service. The proactive remedy for all of those fails is conscious, proactive change management.

5) Confusion Fail: When stakeholders are confused, they cannot put their full support behind and are much slower to engage and embrace the telehealth service. Confusion often stems from a lack of awareness as to the objectives behind the launch of the telehealth service.

6) Hesitancy Fail: When stakeholders are hesitant it is often due to the fact that they don’t share in the desire to create and launch the telehealth service. This is often related to not understanding the benefits of the new service and also can be caused by a lack of training, resulting in a lack of confidence in their ability to succeed in this new world of care delivery.

7) Frustration Fail: When stakeholders are inadequately prepared or if the solution is not well designed and not user friendly (see Quality Fail above), the result is frustration. The solution here is to start small and iron out any kinks with a select group of early adopters who are much more likely to happily push through the trials and tribulations of a new service rollout.

8) Resistance Fail: The most impactful of the four most common people-related fails is an active resistance against the new telehealth service. This is often a combination of not understanding (or not agreeing with) the broader “why” behind the new service and a lack of understanding or agreement with the benefits of telehealth. Resistance is oftentimes best overcome by early involvement (and listening to) the stakeholders that are key to the success and, as suggested in the previous fail, to first work with supportive champions to create early successes.

In the next part we will cover the remaining 8 fails in the areas of technology and finances.

What fails in the areas of project and people have you encountered and how have you overcome them?

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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.