Exploring the benefits of telehealth

Telehealth is changing health care delivery. Through videoconferencing, remote monitoring, electronic consults and wireless communications, telehealth expands patient access while improving patient outcomes and satisfaction. As hospitals and health systems continue to redefine what it means to be a hospital — or to “redefine the H” — telehealth is growing.

A recent report from the American Hospital Association, “Telehealth: Delivering the Right Care, at the Right Place, at the Right Time,” explores a range of innovative solutions that hospitals and health systems are utilizing. These examples illustrate a variety of solutions alongside each organization’s measurable improvements in patient outcomes and savings.

More than 65 percent of hospitals have implemented telehealth in at least one care unit, while an additional 13 percent plan to implement telehealth within the next year. The report is a good resource for organizations considering telehealth as well as those looking to enhance or build out existing telehealth capabilities. Hospitals and health systems highlighted in the case studies range from rural to urban, and their offerings have varying emphases, including e-pharmacy services, drug treatment and virtual intensive care units.

Key findings of the report demonstrate how telehealth services:

  • Allow immediate, around-the-clock access to physicians, specialists and other health care providers that otherwise would not be available in many communities.
  • Allow remote monitoring without requiring patients to leave their homes.
  • Can improve workforce stability, enabling local physician access to distant specialists for immediate patient diagnosis and treatment plans.
  • Can be less expensive and more convenient care options for patients.
  • Ultimately improve care outcomes.

The report and other AHA resources are available here. As health care changes, it's important for boards to stay engaged — to ensure their organizations consider new ways of delivering care and to ensure patients have access to needed services in their communities.

Andy Stern (andystern@sunwestpr.com) is chairman of the American Hospital Association Committee on Governance and a trustee of Medical City Dallas Hospital in Dallas.