As more health systems turn toward enterprise-wide telehealth solutions, they are running up against the familiar challenges of complex technology implementations that have long been familiar to hospital and health system leaders.
The ad hoc, rapid deployments of the early pandemic aside, technology implementations can normally be an excruciatingly long and complex process. Research from the AMA showed that it takes hospitals on average 23 months from identifying a digital need to scaling a digital solution to meet that need.
That’s time most healthcare organizations don’t have in today’s environment.
As a result, many hospitals are turning to consultants to help prepare, identify a vendor, and manage implementation. Our new eBook, How a Telehealth Consultant Can Help Your Organization Prepare for, Choose, and Implement a Telehealth Solution covers this subject in depth.
In the first part of the eBook, previewed here, we suggest a process for choosing a telehealth consultant to start with.
Like finding a good doctor or lawyer, identifying a list of potential telehealth partners begins with an ask to your personal and professional network for recommendations, especially those in the HealthIT sector. Though expanding rapidly, the telehealth universe is still small for a technology segment, and this relatively uncrowded professional community can make it somewhat easier to identify a pool of potential partners.
In addition, organizations like HIMSS and publications like HealthcareIT News, Health IT Consultant, MobiHealthNews, HealthTech, mHealth Intelligence, and Patient Engagement HIT are targets for telehealth consultants who wish to publish their thought leadership on where the industry is headed and how healthcare organizations can thrive moving into the future. On social media, LinkedIn’s Telemedicine & eHealth group, devoted to industry best practice implementations and technical advances in telehealth, is a good community to post questions and solicit recommendations.
Ultimately, you should narrow the field to three or four organizations to present to your team. Don’t overlook smaller consulting firms, which, because of their smaller size, may be more responsive and able to pivot more quickly as circumstances change.
The selection Process
Choosing a telehealth consultant begins with a conversation to assess their experience and gain a sense of the resourcefulness, flexibility, and responsiveness that they will bring to problem- solving for your organization.
Ask candidates to describe ongoing and completed projects with other clients. Expect the firm to be able to describe in detail how they approached and completed projects similar in scope to the services you have in mind for your organization.
Think twice about a firm that appears overly interested in selling you a one-size-fits-all product. They should be prepared to present a few possible options and to describe the pros and cons of each. The firm should understand the connection between the telehealth services your organization will be developing and your organization’s mission and larger strategic goals.
Expect the consultant to be able to provide a standard Statement of Work. A Statement of Work provides an extra layer of detail describing tasks that will and will not be performed and delivered, often including standard fees. This level of detail helps ensure a shared understanding of what the telehealth initiative will deliver and achieve.
Ask about the consultant’s system for responding to the inevitable glitches that arise during a rollout. For example, a consultant’s failure to promptly inform you that they are running into resistance among physicians or staff before and during a project would suggest an unwillingness to tell you what you need to hear, even if it’s uncomfortable to hear it.
Consider an organization with clinical as well as technical expertise. Firms that include team members who have clinical backgrounds in nursing and other fields as well as IT experience are more likely to have the nuanced understanding of the workflows, needs and pain points of telehealth end users. Meanwhile physicians, care team members, both of whom can be indispensable throughout a telehealth initiative, will appreciate that there is clinical experience on the implementation team.
Clinical expertise is not a given in telehealth consulting firms. As a result, these nuances may be missed by even the most technically astute telehealth professionals who do not have clinical training and have never been involved in patient care.
Thinking of hiring a telehealth consultant? Our eBook has a list of telehealth consulting groups that is a good place to start, as well as recommendations for funding sources, and a full discussion of facility challenges that a telehealth consultant can help you prepare for and address.