“In preparing for battle I have always found that
plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.”
– Dwight D. Eisenhower
Telehealth is the delivery of healthcare services at a distance. It encompasses services like telemedicine and remote monitoring and the buzzwords like eHealth, mHealth, and Health 2.0.
With technology and ubiquitous connectivity no longer a hurdle, the question is not if, but when telehealth will become the modus operandi by which we will receive our care.
But healthcare is conservative and only changes slowly. And financial and operational telehealth sustainability are far from being a “given”. In my experience only with a comprehensive plan will you succeed in getting your telehealth services established and making them last.
A Telehealth Business Plan (or Strategic Plan, Business Case) systematically helps to guide your team’s efforts and is the difference between failure and success.
For one smaller healthcare organization, the senior leadership team spent a few months upfront to develop a strategic plan and went from 0 to 700 annual televisits in 13 locations and across eight different medical specialties in under two years. Yet another, very renowned healthcare organization without an overarching plan is still all over the place with many initiatives fizzling out after just a few years. And a mid-sized integration health system took over 15 years to bring its numbers up to 1,000 visits a year.
Just like in any other business venture, a Telehealth Business Plan is tremendously valuable in ensuring a healthcare organization’s success in its journey toward integrating telehealth into their arsenal of healthcare delivery tools.
First of all, a well-developed Telehealth Business Plan provides a vision that aligns with the organization’s overall strategy. It helps busy staff to find the answer to the inevitable questions “why is this important?”, “why should I care?”, and “why should this be different than any other change?”.
Next, a business plan lays out a road map for how best to get started, what other services are to be included (so nobody feels left out), and how to ensure long-term support and sustainability. A business plan thus builds the necessary buy-in across the organization to secure the support of key staff.
A business plan also aims to build a financial case and quantify the initial investment, short-term cost and long-term benefits – both direct and indirect. A business plan gives leaders the opportunity to set the direction and to pledge their support. Furthermore it gives key stakeholders (e.g., nursing, department chairs, IT) the opportunity to influence the strategy before it is implemented.
The primary value of a business plan thus lies in increased buy-in resulting in a much smoother implementation and fewer no false-starts. There will also be less wasted resources, such as the investment in the wrong technology, or the failure to establish a service because a key champion leaves the organization.
Without a telehealth business plan, the implementation of a telehealth service has numerous opportunities to encounter resistance from many sides: IT, finance, billing, nursing, providers, and even patients. Without a plan, implementations can drag on forever, especially if the opportunity of a good “first impression” is missed.
In my experience, a well thought out plan however, engages key opinion leaders and is the key reason for immediate and lasting, sustainable success; especially if the long-term goal is to incorporate elements of telehealth and telemedicine across the organization.