The Northeast Telehealth Resource Center’s 7th annual regional conference went hybrid last month in a model that saw speakers and conference attendees joining both in-person and virtually. Due to the surge in COVID-19 hospitalizations and positivity rates locally and nationwide, the NETRC team had to get creative with the conference structure to ensure safety and comfort for all participants. Presentations and breakout sessions throughout the two-day event featured speakers both on stage and on screen discussing key issues and sharing best practices and lessons learned from a variety of telehealth perspectives, one of which came from the MaineHealth Telehealth Team, who hosted a pre-conference workshop entitled “Implementing Systemic Multi-modal Telehealth Services.”
MaineHealth is the largest health care organization in Maine with over 15 locations throughout Maine and northern New Hampshire. The telehealth team at MaineHealth has grown steadily over the past several years in large part due to the procurement of federal grant dollars that have helped expand the program. The team, led by Telehealth Director, Jasmine Bishop, gave a presentation that covered the successes and missteps that eventually led to the implementation of multiple clinical services across patient settings leveraging three telehealth modalities: eConsults, Remote Patient Monitoring and Telemedicine. Topics of focus included how to identify and engage champions at all levels of the organization, the benefits of operational and technical standardization andovercoming common barriers to success.
The team’s “sink or swim” approach to sharing their experiences with expanding virtual care both prior to and during the pandemic provided a helpful insight for others that may be exploring similar program implementations.For example, Program Manager Rachel Alfiero shared that as the dermatology eConsult program expanded, they failed to implement a streamlined procurement process for the scopes and devices needed to support it (“sink”).This led to them aligning more closely with their IT team to track and order the hardware necessary to run the service. Whereas Program Manager Michelle Beane shared a success (“swim”) story of how they made sure to establish clear clinical goals and outcomes in order to measure the success of their remote patient monitoringprogram focused on healthy living.
The workshop was rounded out by hearing from the team’s clinical lead, Dr. Tracy Jalbuena, who spoke to theimportance of building a telehealth quality assurance and quality improvement program. As Dr. Jalbuena stated, “quality is a big deal in healthcare”, and due to increased scrutiny, perhaps it is an even bigger deal for telehealth. This portion of the discussion emphasized the necessity of integrating a system’s clinical outcomes measures into telehealth visits. Among the possible benefits of this integration is negotiating reimbursement from payers, a critical concern for most organizations.
The Northeast Telehealth Resource Center was delighted to have the MaineHealth Telehealth Team join our incredible cohort of speakers at NETRC 2021. This session encouraged engaged discussion and the information shared will be helpful to health care organizations throughout the region and beyond. A recording of the sessionis available at www.eventmobi.com/TelehealthLaunchpad2021 (with accountcreation).
The NETRC team has worked closely with the MaineHealthTelehealth team to support their growth and optimization of their diverse telehealth service lines for years, including 27 uniquerequests for technical assistance in 2020. Future collaborations with MaineHealth include co-developing a telehealth physical exam training resource, and leveraging subject matter expertise for a regional Project ECHO initiative funded through HRSA.