Telehealth a Winner for Patients, Agencies and Partners

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Karen Utterback By Karen Utterback 
Former Vice President, Product Marketing and Strategy, McKesson (Retired)

Telehealth for Home Health AgenciesHome health agencies must adopt telehealth strategies to show their value to partners and to avoid being left behind, says Dotty Fazenbaker, implementation manager at Robert Bosch Healthcare Systems Inc.

Fazenbaker was the featured speaker during a recent McKesson webinar entitled “Making it Work: Structuring and Growing a Successful Telehealth Program.”

Telehealth is important for several reasons:

  • The incidence of complex illnesses is on the rise
  • Aging Baby Boomers want to stay in their homes
  • Reimbursements are changing
  • Partnerships with accountable care organizations and medical homes are becoming important
  • Hospitals are publicly reporting outcomes and face penalties for readmissions

Before joining Bosch, Fazenbaker set up and ran a successful telehealth program for a home health agency, and she shared many tips from her real-world experience. If your agency doesn’t have telehealth yet, she suggests getting buy-in from the top and identifying champions early. Two previous managers had failed to establish the program, and Fazenbaker said she was successful by using champions who shared their positive feedback with peers.

She also believes agencies should hire a skilled assessment nurse to monitor the telehealth data. This person ideally should have a background in ICU, CCU, ER or trauma in order to catch potential problems early and take action to avoid rehospitalizations. If a telehealth patient is readmitted, a quality assessment should be held, not as a punishment but as a learning experience.

Telehealth should be monitored seven days a week to reduce rehospitalizations, Fazenbaker says. A well-run telehealth program can increase referrals, outcomes and patient self-management and satisfaction. At the same time, it can reduce direct patient contact and travel time as well as increase the number of contacts and the efficiency of your clinicians.

For agencies just starting out, Fazenbaker recommends a minimum of 20 telehealth units, distributed by need rather than first-come, first-served. “That’s the minimum needed to make sure you’re making an impact that you can see on Home Health Compare,” Fazenbaker says. And if you have a waiting list, that means you don’t have enough units, she adds. You should be able to justify the need for additional units by showing your results.

Listen to the telehealth webinar.

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