Hot Topics / Priority Issues

TUESDAY, SEP 26, 2017

New National Quality Forum Report Unveils Telehealth Measurement Framework

A new report funded by the US Department of Health and Human Services, and developed by the National Quality Forum (NQF) unveils a new framework for measuring the impact of telehealth.  In the past, researchers have struggled to accurately calculate the effect telehealth has had on healthcare costs, outcomes and quality due, in part, to the difficultly in taking into account factors such as saved travel time and the benefit of obtaining care faster before a minor condition develops into something more serious.  

In order to properly examine these and other issues, NQF convened a multi-stakeholder Telehealth Committee charged with developing a measurement framework.  In addition to input from the stakeholder group, NQF conducted an environmental scan, gathering information from various journals, white papers and reports.  In total, NQF identified and used 68 studies in its analysis.  The information gathered from the studies informed the report’s focus on four primary domains to measure the impact of telehealth: (1) access to care, (2) the financial impact for both payers and providers, (3) the user experience for patients, caregivers and providers, and (4) technical and clinical effectiveness. 

These domains helped the committee narrow down the primary measurement concepts that could be used within each domain, identifying 16 specific telehealth measures within those categories. The six key areas for measurement that were determined to have the highest priority overall for the measure of telehealth’s impact by the committee were the following:  

  1. Travel: Avoided travel by patients, their caregivers & members of their care team.
  2. Timeliness of Care: Benefits associated with receiving care earlier.
  3. Actionable Information: Technology can provide more actionable information for providers to use during an initial encounter.
  4. Added Value of Telehealth to Provide Evidence-Based Best Practices: Facilitates collaboration between members of care team; and patients with their provider.
  5. Patient Empowerment: Allows patients to get more involved in their healthcare.
  6. Care Coordination: The facilitation of communication across the spectrum of a patient’s healthcare providers.

The report proposes measurement concepts for each of these key areas, and goes on to present several case studies in order to illustrate potential use cases of the proposed measure concepts, and how they could be applied.  

To learn more, read NQF’s full report.