PatientEngagementHIT: Quality Standards to Support Patient Experience Via Telehealth

ClearHealth Quality Institute (CHQI), a third-party healthcare accrediting program, has developed a set of accreditation modules for telehealth and remote patient monitoring geared toward ensuring these tools improve patient care access and yield a positive patient experience.

The modules will be a part of CHQI’s Telemedicine Accreditation Program as developed by the Telemedicine Standards Committee. Standards in the accreditation module aimed to build upon standards recommendations developed by the National Quality Forum (NQF).

CHQI’s telemedicine modules are a part of the industry’s overall mission to not only expand the use of telehealth, but also to ensure patients have a positive experience with the tool. Telehealth is just in its earliest stages of widespread adoption. As more providers deliver care to their patients using telemedicine, it will be important for industry leaders to measure the clinical quality of that care.

“This important initiative will provide a third-party assessment tool to help telemedicine and telehealth organizations measure the four domains identified in the NQF report: 1) access to care; 2) cost effectiveness; 3) experience; and 4) effectiveness,” explained Jason Goldwater, MA, MPA, PMP, Senior Director at the CedarBridge Group and the former NQF Senior Director presiding over the Telehealth Measure Framework.

CHQI’s Telemedicine Standards Committee has also developed a set of standards for a Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM) module. The Committee established similar goals for better patient care access and care quality through RPM use.

“The importance of RPM interventions has expanded dramatically in recent years,” said Rene Quashie, JD, Vice President or Policy & Regulatory Affairs, Digital Health, Consumer Technology Association and member of CHQI’s Telemedicine Standards Committee. “Digital health solutions, including telemedicine and RPM, represent important ways to improve clinical outcomes and value. Developing accreditation standards in these areas is a critical step in protecting patients.”

These accreditation standards come as more patients and providers tap telehealth and RPM technology to improve patient access to care and to elevate the quality of care patients receive.

Specifically, telehealth is useful for connecting patients with disparate providers who can treat a certain condition. Telehealth is especially useful for patients in remote geographic regions or for clinicians to connect and confer with specialists outside of their current care facility.

RPM technology serves a similar purpose, allowing patients and providers to keep track of patient wellbeing and health metrics. These tools alert clinicians of abnormalities and prompt them to admit patients for in- or out-patient care.

Evidence shows that more healthcare providers and patients are using this technology. A 2017 survey from HIMSS Analytics reported that over 70 percent of providers have adopted telehealth to either connect directly with their patients or to connect with other providers for consults.

A separate survey conducted by UnitedHealthcare found that 43 percent of patients would consider using telehealth. Although a far cry from a majority of patients, this number has increased from just 6 percent in 2016, showing that patients are increasingly comfortable with using the technology to support care.

As such, more providers are working to perfect their use of telehealth. While groups such as CHQI have implemented accreditation modules or developed use standards, individual organizations are creating training programs to ensure providers are using the tool in such a way that would leave the patient satisfied.

At the University of San Diego, a telehealth training program ensures nurses maintain good bedside manner while delivering care via video conference, said Jonathan Mack, PhD, RN, NP, director of the USD Hahn School of Nursing and Health Science.

“All of those students are trained in the use of telehealth technology,” Mack told during an interview. “This is not something new for us, we’ve been doing this for several years, local partners have been using it for some time but the writing was on the wall two years ago, especially when California changed their regulations and we’re finding more advanced practice nurses are filling these telehealth roles.”

Training program leaders teach nursing students about the importance of provider appearance on screen and about different communication strategies that will create a positive rapport between patient and provider, despite the technology that separates them.

Developing and then teaching these strategies is essential as more patients and providers begin using telehealth, Mack said.

“Telehealth isn’t future technology, it’s here,” Mack concluded. “It’s already being used by health agencies across the United States and it’s expanding rapidly. In a few years, we’ll think of telehealth as part of what we do in normal care, not something that’s new and emerging as we do today.”

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