On November 5th, 2021, the Northeast Telehealth Resource Center (NETRC) hosted a roundtable discussion on the important topic of telehealth quality. The NETRC team invited subject matter experts from throughout the region to share their experiences and opinions on what they believe are best practices to ensure telehealth encounters are of high-quality standards. The impetus for the roundtable discussion came when Rich Albrecht, Director of the Telehealth Network for the Community Health Network of Connecticut, approached the NETRC team asking for resources on the topic. It had been of strong interest within the FQHC network as they searched for adequate training materials for their providers. The opportunity arose for NETRC to create a comprehensive eLearning resource that is provider facing and highlights the pillars of achieving quality in telehealth.
In order to better understand what should be included in the eLearning resource, NETRC conducted outreach to regional subject matter experts asking for input. Throughout these discussions, the NETRC team found six recurring themes that all agreed should be considered when striving for quality telehealth visits: system integration, patient selection and engagement, team-based care, provider etiquette, clinical appropriateness and meeting quality measures. All subject matter experts were invited to the November 5th meeting for a collaborative discussion on each topic.
Over 20 participants joined the call for a very engaged discussion on telehealth quality. The NETRC team utilized the Padlet Platform to drive the discussion and break it down into topics. As feedback came from the participants either verbally or through the meeting chat, it was entered into the platform in the appropriate section. The content that was captured within the Padlet directly contributed to the development of the outline for the eLearning course entitled: Achieving Quality in Telehealth: Practical Resources for Providers. The eLearning resource is expected to be published in late January or early February of 2022.
We found across the board the group believed that the accepted definitions of quality in health care that apply to in-person visits should be the same for telehealth visits. The group also agreed that an eLearning resource on telehealth quality should feature strategies on how technology can be leveraged to achieve quality care as well as best practices for ensuring telehealth visits are of the same (or higher) quality as in person visits.
Perhaps the most discussed topic and one the group found critical to achieving quality in telehealth was patient selection and engagement. The question repeated many times was, “how do you ensure you have the right patient for the right purpose on a telehealth visit?” Considerations for this included not only patient preference, digital literacy and access, but also provider agreeability, regulatory considerations, licensure and compliance.
The Northeast Telehealth Resource Center thoroughly enjoyed hosting this collaborative effort to help define and establish the foundation for quality in telehealth. We look forward to continuing the effort and creating useful tools for our regional providers and stakeholders, and we are immensely grateful for the comprehensive assistance and support of our colleagues at the Community Health Network of Connecticut Inc. (CHNCT) throughout this process.