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Telehealth: Virtual Engagement

Originally posted on HIMSS
By Amber Thompson, MBA, MS, Vice President of Client Services & Customer Success

Telehealth- What exactly is it?

“Telehealth encompasses a broad variety of technologies and tactics to deliver virtual medical, health, and education services. Telehealth is not a specific service, but a collection of means to enhance care and education delivery” (Center for Connected Health Policy). This is the textbook definition of Telehealth; however, in practicality we still struggle to best combine virtual and traditional care delivery models. While finding the right mix for various populations and disease groups is no easy task, there are some pretty basic principles in play. Behavioral change theories, clinical best practice, and advancements in education can lead to a future where Telehealth is commonly used, generating high-value integrated data for evaluation and treatment.

Virtual Engagement

Telehealth as a mainstream norm will take more than the development of remote clinical process and technology tools. It will take teaching healthcare providers to engage on a different level and in a broader scope than they are accustomed to or trained for. This is because virtual models extend past the typical norms of regionality and specialty. Today, most practitioners have a comfort level with “their” patient base because of common shared norms including the local payer environment, community foot-holds, and the ethnic/ demographic make-up of their specific region. And most work from familiarity- local networks and referrals from providers working with the same limited view on the local community and population needs. In a Telehealth model, we shift those traditional norms to a broader scope absent of the local network and known norms.

With all of these tools in place, is the virtual model fool-proof? Only if we understand that one size does not fit all, and that engagement is key to the success of any care delivery model.

Tips for engagement in the virtual care model:

  • Assessments are critical in gaining a baseline understanding of where the individual is in their personal journey.
    • Health literacy
    • Clinical stability (falls, infection risk, safety of the personal environment)
    • Stages of Change- Ability/ willingness/readiness to for change to manage chronic illnesses
    • Socio-economic factors
    • Technical acumen- Align interventions and tools with individual preferences to gain maximum results
  • User experience in design: User-friendly functionality helps to engage diverse patient populations at varying levels of technical acumen.

As we continually enlist technology to help us support the burgeoning needs of diverse populations, it is evident that virtual models are an effective way to support the chronically ill, especially in rural and remote areas. We just need to make sure we don’t lose the patient in patient care.



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