December 13, 2016

Walking the Clinical Quality Talk

By Henry DePhillips, MD, FAAFP, Teladoc Chief Medical Officer

Actions speak louder than words. Practice what you preach. The proof is in the pudding. We’re all familiar with these phrases. You can pick your preference, but we all know what they mean – do what you say.

At Teladoc, we are especially focused on doing what we say when it comes to clinical quality. We are a member of the National Quality Forum (NQF), a recognized leader in initiatives to enhance healthcare value, make patient care safer, and achieve better outcomes. We also work closely with industry trades group including the American Telemedicine Association (ATA). I recently had the pleasure of being in the company of top policymakers, health care experts and industry practitioners to discuss leading trends and issues in telehealth at the ATA bi-monthly Telehealth Capital Connection (TCC) meeting series in Washington, DC. As quality care and quality measures are central to healthcare more than ever today, the topic of clinical quality in telehealth is a compelling part of the conversation and one that necessitates these gatherings.

In addition to our work with other organizations, here at Teladoc, we also have ongoing quality-focused gatherings. We held our quarterly Quality and Patient Safety committee meeting, chaired by Teladoc board member and former Senator and U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, along with participation from other board members, such as Helen Darling, Interim CEO of the National Quality Forum. Our experienced board and staff channel their areas of collective expertise to create an actionable quality indicator dashboard which equips us to remain at the forefront in providing the highest level of quality for all stakeholders – our members, the patients seeking treatment for themselves or for their family; the physicians responsible for providing diagnoses and treatments; and our clients, who trust us to help them achieve their goals.

The focus of the Quality and Patient Safety meeting was reviewing the thorough, underlying requirements of our four clinical quality pillars:

  1. Defining the medical conditions that are appropriate for telemedicine

  2. Developing evidence-based clinical practice guidelines for the remote treatment of these conditions

  3. Placing the necessary and desirable “guardrails” around care delivery to ensure patient safety

  4. Selecting and training the best of the best providers to provide care to our members

These pillars guide our continued innovation and supplement what has been a history rooted in a deep commitment to clinical quality. I am proud to say that since we pioneered the development of clinical protocols tailored specifically to the delivery of remote care, we have routinely convened panels of experienced physicians to help us develop what are now more than 100 individual clinical practice guidelines. We also have robust quality assurance oversight, including the random peer review of 10% of patient charts or clinical records. In addition, our providers must follow the specific procedures and protocols that have been established for clinical documentation and information sharing with community physicians. This is a demonstrated commitment to clinical quality.

Recently Teladoc announced our record milestone of 123,000 monthly visits. The Advisory Board predicts that virtual visits will exceed 25 million by 2020. This market growth must be supported by only the highest quality standards. Teladoc is ready and able to continue our longstanding record of delivering only the highest quality care.

Imagine receiving care in the telehealth setting that is superior to the care in other settings. That’s not just talk. Whether it’s today, tomorrow, or at a future point we cannot yet see, Teladoc has the unique ability to demand, deliver and maintain the highest quality of care available anywhere. At Teladoc, we are walking the clinical quality talk.