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Crafting a telehealth strategy for the C-suite

"Healthcare is going to change and telehealth is going to be an enabling component of that."
By Eric Wicklund
08:03 AM
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What, exactly, is a "game-changing telehealth strategy?"

To Jay Backstrom and Jeff Jones, it isn't something that's tacked onto a health system's operations, like an extra room or the obnoxious uncle at a wedding. It's part and parcel with the system's organizational strategy of making healthcare more efficient and less costly.

"To establish a game-changing program, you must understand that telehealth needs to be aligned properly with the direction of your organization," Backstrom said. "It shouldn't be reactionary, randomly used or unintegrated" with the organizational goals of the health system.

In other words: It really should be a C-suite priority.

Jones is a senior manager and Backstrom a partner at Subsidium Healthcare, an Atlanta-based management consulting firm focused exclusively on the healthcare industry. They've handled plenty of telehealth-related projects, and they'll be explaining the possibilities and pitfalls in their HIMSS15 session, "Creating a Game-Changing Telehealth Strategy," on Tuesday, April 14 at McCormick Place in Chicago.

Jones and Backstrom see an "extremely robust" telehealth market as a good sign the healthcare is "getting it." And they're coming at it from different angles – some organizations are using telehealth to tackle readmission rates, while others are targeting chronic care management and there are those creating specialty services or extending the brand. What's important, Jones explained, is that healthcare organizations need to study and understand what would work best for them, and then start slowly and gradually, rather than expecting any old program out there to be adaptable.

"Some are just jumping into the deep end without giving it a whole lot of thought," he said. "Or they're dabbling in it but they really aren't focused. You need to understand the marketplace."

To be sure, telehealth is and will be disruptive, Backstrom said, so it's vital that the C-suite take on the project, rather than department heads, and that it aligns with the system's core ideals going forward – becoming an accountable care organization, for instance, or developing a remote monitoring program for consumers outside the system's walls, expanding business lines and driving new revenue streams. All are part of the healthcare system of the future.

"Healthcare is going to change," Jones said, "and telehealth is going to be an enabling component of that. Make sure your pace and quality are consistent." To which Backstrom added: "Just be ready to act when it's time.”

The session "Creating a Game-Changing Telehealth Strategy," will take place from 4-5 p.m. on Tuesday, April 14, in Room S103.

Topics: 
Mobile, Telehealth