Following last week’s post about a specific challenge posed by telehealth —screening patients for domestic abuse and violence — this week, we focus on the quality of telehealth in general. Telehealth and other forms of virtual care have proven successful at expanding access and engaging many but not all patients. As these new models become accepted ways of providing care, they should be studied, vetted and improved the same as any other change in care delivery.
In a recent blog post, David Meyers, M.D., acting director of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, takes stock of the current moment, with greatly increased use of telehealth since the beginning of the pandemic, and identifies areas that are ripe for study and analysis:
We no longer can ask “Should healthcare delivery embrace telehealth?” but instead ask “How can we learn from the use of telehealth today to ensure care is better tomorrow?” Stakeholders across the healthcare landscape—payers, policymakers, clinical professionals, and patients—need reliable information about the ways telehealth can best be integrated into healthcare delivery to drive quality, safety, equity, and value.
Dr. Meyers reports that he, as a patient, benefited from the opportunity to receive “safe, accessible, convenient, continuous and quality” care during the pandemic for a serious ongoing condition. He points out that now is the time— as many aspects of life, including medical practice, begin to settle into new normal patterns —to assess recent experience of telehealth and “ask hard questions” to ensure that telehealth fulfills our expectations for high quality, safe care available to all:
The COVID-19 pandemic ignited the expansion of telehealth. Now that telehealth has shown its potential, we must not rely on assumptions; it is time to ask challenging questions and create the evidence to ensure telehealth drives improvements in quality, safety, equity, access, and value.