The Project Management Institute (PMI) defines a project risk as “an uncertain event or condition that, if it occurs, has a positive or negative effect on a project’s objectives.”
What I love about that definition is that it does not merely lead you to mitigating the negative effects of risks, but is consciously creating conditions that enhance the success of the project.
This approach, however, requires a different mindset. Over the millennia our minds have been trained to look out for the things that may go wrong, that may hurt us.
Rather than focusing a lot of energy solely on predicting all the things that may go wrong and on identifying early detection and mitigation strategies, this definition invites you to focus some of that energy on creating the conditions that enhance the likelihood of a great outcome.
The challenge here is to adopt a new mindset. We are so trained to only look for the negative risks and prepare for them and rarely prepare adequately for success, thereby possibly inadvertently increasing the likelihood of those very risks we want to avoid to occur.
For example if during the definition of a new telemedicine service the billing staff learns that reimbursement across different payors can be very tricky and difficult, then this is how it will occur for them: complicated and cumbersome.
A focus on the positive risks, on the other hand, redirects the attention to those circumstances and actions that will actually increase the likelihood that the rollout of the new telemedicine service will go well.
Launching Telehealth with Positive Risk in Mind
So here are my three favorite uncertain conditions that will have a positive effect on the launch of a new telehealth service.
1. patient’s love it and tell others about it
2. works really well, clinically
3. it works really well, strategically
Patient’s Love it
When you launch a telemedicine service that is effectively marketed and generates a great patient experience, there is a (positive) risk that your patients will love it and that demand will soon outstrip your capacity to deliver. If that sounds strange, think about every company whose website got popular overnight (e.g., by being featured on SharkTank) that had to prepare for and deal with the onslaught of request to purchase the product.
The risk management strategy of this positive risk here is two-fold: First, have the launch team give it some thought how an rapid increase in demand could be satisfied in the simplest possible way. Second, carefully design your communication to your patients in a way that sets expectations realistically without dissuading them from asking for more.
Because nothing is worse that if you are really sold on something and all you get is a busy signal or being told “No”.
It works really well, clinically
If you’ve done your work right in the design of the workflow, the selection and configuration of your technology and managing the education and training, chances are that physicians are going to wholeheartedly embrace it, piquing the curiosity of other providers in the same or other areas of your organization.
This success will generate a demand for new or different telemedicine services and you want to be prepared, similar to the previous example, to handle those requests gracefully and respectfully.
If the chances are high that the rollout of your telemedicine service will be embraced by the providers, make sure that you have a formal intake process (including timely and periodic follow-up) for capturing requests and ideas for other telemedicine services.
It works really well, strategically
Telehealth is a great tool to help healthcare organizations to meet their strategic objectives, whether that is in the world of the quadruple aim (such as improving outcomes or increasing physician satisfaction) or related to recruiting new staff or expanding geographic reach.
When a new telemedicine service launch (e.g., RPM for readmission prevention to avoid non-reimbursable readmissions and readmission penalties) is showing great results, leadership may quickly focus its attention to leveraging the possibilities of telemedicine services further.
Once again, the mindset shift here is to be prepared for success, leading you to have processes and systems in place to effectively manage leadership’s expectations regarding the wider use of telemedicine at the ready (e.g., have those requests for additional full-time staff and consulting expertise at the ready.
Yin and Yang
Every aspect in life has two sides to it and so do project risks when launching a new telemedicine service. It does not take much time to prepare for success and only of those preparations were made, is it really possible for success to show up.
Where in your telemedicine launches have you encountered surprising success? Which positive risks are you actively preparing for?