Can Accreditation Help Standardize Evidence-Based Telehealth?

Last fall, ClearHealth Quality Institute formed a Telemedicine Outcomes Workgroup, which was tasked with developing a set of accreditation standards surrounding best practices in the measurement and management of telemedicine outcomes.

The result of the group’s work will be a new aspect of the CHQI Telemedicine Accreditation Program – the Telemedicine Outcomes Supplement. This optional component of the program will offer telemedicine programs the ability to earn an additional accreditation seal that demonstrates to an applicant’s stakeholders an enhanced emphasis on the implementation, analysis and reporting of specific telemedicine program outcomes.  As part of CHQI’s new Telemedicine Outcomes Supplement, applicants will also need to demonstrate actionable tasks that will lead to improved patient outcomes resulting from their analysis.

When finalized, CHQI’s telemedicine outcome standards will not only serve as the first opportunity for telemedicine programs to benchmark and illustrate the strength of their outcomes measurement programs, but will also provide standardization with regard to building, implementing, and maintaining a successful telemedicine outcomes program.

Yet CHQI is not the only organization to turn its focus towards the importance of measuring telemedicine outcomes – the industry as a whole echoes our sentiment. The American Telemedicine Association (ATA) recently named Sabrina Smith as Executive Director of the Center for Applied Research in Telehealth, signaling that the organization is now engaging key stakeholders in conversations around research regarding the innovative and lasting solutions provided by telehealth that are transforming healthcare and outcomes through enhanced, efficient delivery.

Further, Jason Goldwater, chair of CHQI’s Telemedicine Outcomes Workgroup and senior principal at Atlas Research, noted during a recent national meeting of the Centers for Telehealth and e-Health Policy (CTeL) that telemedicine accreditation serves as a crucial tool for identifying evidence-based pathways for improved clinical outcomes and generating more opportunities for reimbursement.

Focusing his remarks on the need for, and development of, a “data dictionary”, Jason also noted that “a significant part of the problem is the inability to acquire a standard dataset to conduct cost-effectiveness and cost-benefit analysis across telehealth programs.  A data dictionary is critical to accelerating this type of research as it standardizes the elements across programs, independent of modalities or types of services.”

Accordingly, the new initiative taken on by CTeL to develop such a dictionary will assist in standardizing key terms and research methodologies to help demonstrate the value of telehealth programs. Jason stated that programs like CHQI’s Telemedicine Accreditation Program take on a vital role in this process.

CHQI, ATA, and CTeL will continue to work hand-in-hand to promote the measurement of outcomes in order to demonstrate how telehealth can improve clinical and financial outcomes.

Stay tuned for more updates on CHQI’s new programs.

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