What are the lessons learned in establishing and maintaining telehealth services?
The most important part of any health IT project is getting buy-in from providers; this is as true with telehealth projects as any other health IT-related project. If providers are unhappy with the project, it will not succeed. Priority needs to be given to achieve a smooth integration of the new project into present workflows. Although the project may involve introducing new technology, or enhancing integration of existing technology into a practice, the goal of the project is to improve patient outcomes. Be sure the project has a "people first" approach to minimize the risk of alienating providers.
Use all available resources. Talk to administrators of other telehealth programs about their experiences. Contact local universities to find technical health IT courses and curriculums to draw qualified support staff. Search for eligible grant money from public or private sector sources.
Keep in mind that the benefits of a new telehealth program may take time to accrue. The cost savings achieved through telehealth technology will not all be realized by the practice (payers and patients will save money as well), so be wary of basing the budget on an outside source's view of the benefits of the technology. Efficiency savings may take time to be realized. Even if the implementation schedule is generous, it will take practice before new procedures become routine and run smoothly.
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