May 08, 2018

Advice from a health system: Tips on setting a strategy & selecting a telehealth solution

By Dr. Alan Roga

In 1776, Philadelphia was one of the seats of the American Revolution. Today, the Thomas Jefferson University and its 14-hospital Jefferson Health system in Philadelphia are at the forefront of the telehealth revolution. Their JEFFConnect consumer telehealth program is one of the most innovative and effective programs in the country.

While working with Jefferson Health, we were really impressed with the approach they took to telehealth and how they manage their program. Here are four lessons that Jefferson Health learned that can help pave the way for other health systems that want to introduce telehealth. The lessons come courtesy of Dr. Judd Hollander, emergency medicine physician and senior vice president of healthcare delivery innovation at Jefferson Health. See more tips and insights for an effective telehealth strategy in our case study.

1. Strategy Drives Success, Not Vice Versa

Setting strategy is key to telehealth success. There should be organization-wide clarity on why telehealth is being used and what it is supposed to accomplish before any decisions are made about the platform itself. Otherwise, there is a real risk of having a favored feature or product drive the strategy decision. Jefferson chose a two-prong strategy. It offers dozens of telehealth services directly to patients, and has a provider-to-provider program that allows smaller community hospitals to access the expertise to treat complex conditions locally. Jefferson Health got the strategic flexibility it needed by basing its program on the Teladoc licensed platform, which offers hospitals and health systems more than 300 unique configurations so they can tailor their telehealth programs to their specific business needs.

2. Solutions Designed for a Health System

An effective telehealth program takes much more than a collection of technology components. It needs to support workflows throughout the continuum of care, integrate with medical record and billing systems, provide services to attract and engage patients, include 24/7 support for patients and providers and more. Effective telehealth takes a holistic approach and is not tech focused.

3. Multiparty Support is Essential

Jefferson Health’s telehealth program does not limit participation in telehealth consultations to the patient and caregiver. Jefferson insisted on a solution with multiparty video support so telehealth visits can include specialists, care coordinators and patient family members, as necessary or desired. To truly provide multiparty support, the telehealth program should not require users to install an app or register an account, because while smartphones and home computers are pervasive, they are not universal. Users should be able to connect from anywhere using any device, regardless of browser or operating system.

4. Don’t Wait

"If you are not doing telehealth or starting a full-scale program now, you are taking a huge risk," says Dr. Hollander. "This is comparable to urgent care in 1980. Some providers thought it would just go away and now one is on every street corner. The only question becomes the timing, scope and scale at which you grow telehealth."

Download the case study for tips and insights for an effective telehealth strategy and to learn more about Jefferson Health’s JEFFconnect consumer telehealth program.