What data technologies are needed to propel telehealth quality?

Virtual care aligns with strategic imperatives to improve health outcomes, enhance patient safety, optimize the patient experience for populations with medical complexity high healthcare needs. As a result, it will pay off if healthcare can continue the expansion of telehealth started by the COVID-19 pandemic.

One driver of successful expansion of virtual care services is open communication collaboration with key stakeholders on important initiatives that impact the virtual care process, said Dr. Saima Aftab, vice president, strategic initiatives, at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital in Miami, Florida.

Sustaining quality telehealth programs

“Stakeholders include internal external customers, our patients, families providers,” said Aftab. “Selection of information technology tools, video platform enhancements, process improvement initiatives are keys to growing sustaining quality telehealth programs. 

“The COVID-19 public health emergency flexibilities waivers, including expanded reimbursement, were pivotal facilitators that led to the rapid scaling of virtual care services allowed patients providers to truly explore adopt virtual care,” she said.

While the pandemic was useful for understanding overcoming telehealth barriers, having a defined virtual care workflow framework in place has shown to be a best practice for a successful encounter, she noted.

“Once providers are equipped with hardware software needs standardized virtual care workflows are implemented, providers can focus on patient education creating a meaningful experience,” said Aftab. “Telehealth will play a pivotal role in the healthcare delivery system. The ongoing success of telemedicine will be dependent on reimbursement parity connectivity in the form of access to high-speed internet.”

To make progress, healthcare provider organizations will need telehealth data-driven EHR-based clinical research, databases tools, she contended.

Meaningful data, measured analyzed

“Virtual care does not advance without meaningful data that is measured analyzed for lessons learned on quality of care, cost experience,” she said. “Successful programs use telehealth technologies for clinical decision making, databases tools to further grow the program.”

Nicklaus Children’s Hospital developed a technology roadmap implemented telehealth platform enhancements with a focus on interoperability integration with its EHR. This, along with other technologies, will be used for clinical decision making.

“We are working on establishing a robust research program with core foundational infrastructure resources,” said Aftab. “We developed a dashboard to streamline data capture support analysis of data to study health outcomes translational clinical efforts in virtual care. 

“The objectives are to support telehealth scientific discovery pioneering investigation, provide a platform for researchers, physicians all healthcare professionals to study outcomes translational clinical efforts in telehealth,” she added.

As new technologies, such as remote monitoring devices, mobile devices, sensors others, become prevalent, technology-driven healthcare services will grow, she said.

Applying predictive analytics

“As we begin to collect store telehealth data in a standardized format, opportunities arise to apply predictive analytics,” Aftab observed. “Data collection integration of documentation also help measure important outcomes such as improvements in access to care.”

Aftab said that patient-centered technologies techniques for advanced data sharing visualization used to measure telehealth key performance indicators (KPIs) effectiveness of process improvement methodologies also will be of importance.

“Patient-centric technology applications are essential to consumer adoption creating an effective telehealth program,” she said. “Telehealth is a disruptive technology that reduces costs has the opportunity to increase quality patient satisfaction. Patient engagement experience, listening to the voice of the customer, must be at the forefront for scaling telehealth services.”

Provider engagement also is critical, including training programs standardized processes, which must frequently be reviewed modulated based on feedback, she added.

User support resources

“Telehealth user support resources should be provided through various avenues,” Aftab said. “For example, enhancements were made in the dissemination of best practices such as a new digital workplace/communication site. Sharing educational tools, manuals guides on patient-facing websites employee intranet also are effective strategies.”

Key performance indicators related to patient provider engagement have been critical metrics in measuring the success of telehealth services.

“These included the effectiveness of training programs standardized processes,” Aftab said. “A multidisciplinary team collaborated to ensure optimal access facilitate a comprehensive coordinated approach to care. More than 350 new providers in 24 pediatric specialties were trained on the telehealth platform were engaged in virtual care.

“An important part of the process improvement journey was developing a control plan formalized document that monitors metrics to make adjustments as needed for constant process improvement sustainability,” she continued. 

“A telehealth dashboard was developed for clinical research data collection application of advanced data visualization tools techniques, which will support research initiatives tracking of KPIs.”

A control plan allows for organization-wide accountability ensures the implementation of a meaningful virtual care program, she added.

Continuous process improvement journey

“The organization’s continuous process improvement journey goal to understand, streamline automate processes incorporated state of the art technologies,” Aftab said. “Tools included were not limited to application programming interfaces, Erlang-C, machine learning, natural language processing, SMS text business intelligence data analytics.

“Other KPIs measure enhancements to the telehealth platform for optimal data sharing, interoperability data integration focused on supporting EHR-based clinical research optimizing clinical workflows processes.”

Call Center analytics tools were developed to monitor call center metrics such as call volumes, service level abandoned call rate.

“The formula ‘Erlang-C’ was used to predict call center load determine appropriate staffing to meet service levels,” she explained. “Service level goal was determined to be 80% of calls answered within 30 seconds based on industry standard, the goal was exceeded at 97-99%. Other metrics tracked exceeded included reduction in abandoned call rate for the call center percent of dropped video calls.”

Aftab will offer more detail during her HIMSS21 session, “Using Technologies Data to Drive Telehealth Excellence.” It’s scheduled for Aug. 10, from 2-3 p.m. in Venetian Lido 3104.

Twitter: @SiwickiHealthIT
Email the writer: [email protected]
Healthcare IT News is a HIMSS Media publication.

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