By Ed Simcox, Healthcare Practice Leader for Logicalis

The number of patients and clinicians who expect to have telehealth services available today is rapidly approaching a critical mass beyond which having an established telehealth program will be a “must-have” for any mainstream healthcare organization. Healthcare organizations, as a result, are under increasing pressure to implement telehealth programs in their organizations.

Although a certain amount of urgency is appropriate, healthcare organizations at the early levels of the telehealth maturity continuum need to avoid rushing headlong into pitfalls that more mature organizations have learned, sometimes painfully, to avoid. Here are three possible pitfalls:

  1. Lack of governance
  2. Allowing technology or vendors to drive telehealth program design decisions
  3. Failure to adequately market telehealth programs internally and externally

Pitfall #1: Lack of governance

Telehealth has many exciting capabilities and bells and whistles that can capture the imagination of clinicians and patients. “Governance,” by contrast, sounds boring, but without it, the most exciting and innovative telehealth program will fall short of its potential. An effective governance model will support the planning, implementation and ongoing activities necessary to begin and sustain a telehealth program. Launching a telehealth program without effective governance structure is like launching a ship without a complete crew and navigation tools.

Pitfall #2: Allowing technology to drive telehealth design

Too many telehealth solutions are designed around a specific technology or device. There is much more to telehealth than “technology on a cart.” Focus on the specific needs that clinicians and patients are facing, and technology choices will then become easier and the technical design more apparent.

Pitfall #3: Failure to market telehealth internally and externally

Internally: You need to develop a systematic internal plan to communicate the value of your telehealth program to the community of clinicians who will use it. They have to know what’s available and trust it before they will use it. They also need to understand why it’s important to them and to your institution.

Externally: Success of your telehealth program also depends on how receptive your community of patients and external clinicians are to accessing and providing care in new ways. If you build it, they will not necessarily come. You need to communicate with the community you serve and show them how telehealth can enhance their care and make it more convenient.

These are just a few pitfalls to avoid. I would love to hear others that you have experienced.

In my next blog post, I plan to dive deeper into the importance of governance and telehealth team-building.

For inside information on nine key tactics for successful telehealth, download our white paper: “How to design and implement a successful Telehealth program for your organization” at:  http://www.us.logicalis.com/healthcareit/telehealth-whitepaper/