Telemedicine: Start with the basics


Shelly Carolan

Sector Leader, For-profit Health Services

Korn Ferry

May 3, 2018

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As thousands convene at the ATA conference in Chicago abuzz with the promise of reinventing healthcare through “virtual care” it is easy to get swept up into the enthusiasm and all the cool new technology. However, having spent years working directly with hospitals on their telemedicine programs I can tell you there are many hospital systems that have been frustrated with the pace of their telemedicine initiatives or feeling like they have yet to realize their full potential.


It is generally agreed that for hospitals telemedicine initiatives can lower costs, improve patient outcomes and give better access to specialists for their patients. In fact, according to a recent survey 75% of U.S. healthcare systems have virtual care platforms or are planning on implementing one. So why do so many hospital telemedicine initiatives stall or fail to flourish from just department initiatives to enterprise ones?


Well, for one thing, the reimbursements and state and federal legislation simply have not kept pace with the technology evolution of healthcare. For many this has impacted their projected ROI or milestone timelines. However, there are still several hospital systems that have had incredible impacts with their telemedicine initiatives that have gone onto fundamentally change the way the organization delivers patient care. To me, these hospital systems have all had three basic things in common.


Sustainability. The program was deemed one of the top priorities of the organization by leadership who was confident that both the financial model and the business model would work. Leadership also very proactively tackled the cultural factors that might impede adoption or acceptance of the program.


Organizational Design. There was an owner of the program internally who was ultimately responsible for the program’s success. Having a champion to tackle critical internal conversations around optimizing workflows, mapping out processes and making sure there was physician alignment with schedules and compensation is a must.


Success Factors. A unified voice around what metrics were and what was important. These can be different for different organizations, but they were usually around patient engagement and satisfaction, access to specialty care, cost reductions and/or Leap Frog scores.


So, marvel at the gadgets, be astounded at the pace of technology and be starry eyed optimistic about the future of healthcare and the impact technology can have on it. Most importantly, always be ready for change because the momentum and positive effects of telemedicine will continue to increase, but do not forget the basics!