After many decades of slow progress, telehealth adoption is at last growing exponentially. According to a survey of 800 physicians, the number of physicians who have used telemedicine went from 5% in 2015 to 22% 2018 — an exponential increase of doubling the adoption rate every 18 months, which is quite an outlier in an industry which historically has achieved adoption rates only after 17 years.
Telehealth is most simply defined as delivering healthcare at a distance and with that definition telehealth practically is healthcare — the only difference being that the physician and the patient are no longer constrained by being in the same room or even having to interact at the same time. For any health system there are therefore dozens if not hundreds of use cases for telehealth, by multiplying dozens of specialties with a dozen or more locations where the patient can be (e.g., at home, at work, at another clinic, at an ER or an ICU, etc.), multiplied by the different modalities of interactive, remote monitoring, and store & forward.
For any healthcare organization adopting telehealth, the rollout of telehealth is first and foremost an exercise in organizational change management: workflows needs to be changed, new technology needs to be deployed and trained on, and more often than not, minds need to be educated about the merits of telehealth. With time and money being the key priorities of any enterprise, organizations need a robust process to identify the most important telehealth use cases to launch next.
How to prioritize telehealth use cases
It bears repeating that telehealth is not really about the technology: it’s about changing the way healthcare is being delivered. When these changes are financially sustainable, offer medical care of the same quality as in-person care, and improve access to care for patients, then the business case for telehealth is clear.
As an engineer, I like processes and formulas. As I worked with different organizations over the years, I developed a formula for prioritizing use cases. I recommend organizations consider four factors, which go into my formula with different weightings:
- The Musts, i.e., the contractual or legal obligations that require your organization to offer a telehealth service
- The Passion/Interest of the affected clinical and medical staff
- The Strategic alignment of the telehealth use case with your telehealth strategy
- The Complexity in setting up and rolling out that particular telehealth use case
Combined, the formula reads as follows: