4 key steps to safe and effective telehealth

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Is your telehealth service popular with patients? Have your clinicians embraced telehealth? Are you thinking of expanding or consolidating your service? Or perhaps you’re looking at offering telehealth consultations for the first time?

Wherever you are along the telehealth continuum, it is important to regularly review and assess your telehealth service to ensure that it remains safe, effective, and successful.

The United States’ health standards and accreditation not-for-profit, the Joint Commission, has created a list of practical and easy-to-implement recommendations to ensure that your telehealth service is safe, effective, and also successful.

The 4 steps to ensure that your telehealth service is safe, effective, and successful, are:

  1. Set up your telehealth system for success.
  2. Consider how your clinical services can most effectively be used via telehealth.
  3. Follow through on the details to make telehealth work efficiently with your workflow.
  4. Use data and other feedback on your telehealth experiences to make improvements.

1. Set up your telehealth system for success.

  • Establish key metrics for success. Hard metrics can include number of patients seen via telehealth, reductions in no-shows, and clinical outcomes. It’s also important to set qualitative metrics, such as how telehealth has impacted patient and staff satisfaction, and compliance with treatment as a result of access, convenience, and continuity of care. The data can be used to look for opportunities to restructure the program for improvement.
  • Ensure that your vendor can give you easy access to data needed to support your key success metrics. 
  • Ask about ways your vendor can provide support pre- and post-implementation, for example, training, tech support, workflow design collaboration, data analysis, cybersecurity, and project management.
  • Ensure that your organisation has a secure platform that supports your country’s relevant regulatory standards in the use and disclosure of health and personal data, eg the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) in the United States, and General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in the European Union.

2. Consider how your clinical services can most effectively be used via telehealth.

  • Develop protocols for virtual care. Reduce variation between specialties and service lines by training providers to provide a standardised high-quality care experience for patients.
  • Determine standards for which symptoms and conditions can be managed virtually. Use these standards to triage patients who request a virtual visit.
  • Be aware of regulations around scope of practice (for example, in the United States, limitations regarding different healthcare disciplines can vary by state).
  • Each physician should determine the need for vital signs and the safest and most appropriate approach to accurately obtain them. Some home monitoring programs incorporate measurement and recording of various vital signs. In some cases, an in-person examination may be preferred.
  • When relying on remote consultations for inpatient care, mandate that another clinician should be at the patient’s bedside to assist during the session.

3. Follow through on the details to make telehealth work efficiently with your workflow.

  • Train staff on the telehealth workflow, define roles and responsibilities for both patients and staff, and explain new processes or procedures.
  • Integrate staff feedback into the scheduling process.
  • Identify a staff ‘super user’ who can provide support and training. 

4. Use data and other feedback on your telehealth experiences to make improvements.

  • Give clinicians real-time access to patient data.
  • Enable the collection of remote patient monitoring data into the electronic health record, particularly temperature and pulse oximetry data, blood pressure and glucose. 
  • Build on your telehealth success to improve management of other patient populations, conditions, and specialities.


Read the Joint Commission’s Quick Safety Issue 55: The optimal use of telehealth to deliver safe patient care here.



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