‘This needs to be a living document’
WASHINGTON – The National Quality Forum has pulled together a panel of experts to study telehealth metrics and develop a framework around which quality and effectiveness measures can be based.
“Telehealth has grown over the past 15 years in a variety of health care settings, but there is not a set of measurements that prove its effectiveness,” said Jason Goldwater, NQF senior director. “To develop these metrics, to show its value and effectiveness would really help advance the field.”
Using electronic communications, information technology, devices and platforms, telehealth supports health care delivery by replicating the interaction of an in-person encounter with a health care provider. Goldwater said the panel will cover telehealth broadly, including remote patient monitoring, sensor-based technology, store-and-forward technology and video conferencing.
The project to develop a framework to support measurement calls for the multi-stakeholder panel to review existing and potential metrics, which will hopefully lead to the identification of gaps. From there, the panel will develop a framework and a set of guiding principles for future measurement.
“People want to see an objective assessment of telehealth,” said Goldwater. “If you can do that, you are aligning telehealth with other forms of health care, if used effectively.”
The NQF panel is comprised of medical officers, telehealth program directors, technology specialists, health researchers and others who have the right expertise and knowledge to conduct the project, Goldwater said. The framework they produce will need to be sustainable, he said, to allow for advances in technology.
“As modes shift, the framework needs to be relevant,” Goldwater said. “This needs to be a living document.”
Goldwater said that technology allows for quality measurement, and he envisions measures that are developed to relate specifically to the patient. Where patients in the past accepted what a physician said and followed instructions, he said technology has changed the dynamic between the provider and patient, and now extends to the family and caregiver.
“We need to find measurements the patient is interested in,” Goldwater said. “They’ll be more engaged if it’s important to them and they understand the bigger picture. The communication can extend beyond the office visit.”