How to set the bar for clinical quality within the virtual care experience

Fueled by rising healthcare costs and a growing shortage of physicians, patients increasingly lack access to medical care. However, emerging digital tools offer healthcare providers an opportunity to improve clinical quality and expand access to care. 

While the definition of "high-quality care" can vary somewhat, most healthcare organizations define it as the delivery of timely, effective, equitable and patient-centered care.

During a Nov. 14 webinar hosted by Becker's Hospital Review and sponsored by Teladoc Health, Jason Tibbels, MD, chief quality officer at Teladoc Health, and Shayan Vyas, MD, MBA vice president of health systems innovations and quality at Teladoc Health, discussed how the telehealth company ensures it delivers quality virtual care.

Despite different care delivery methods, telehealth and in-person care assume very similar management styles regarding quality measures. To manage clinical quality and virtual medicine, Teladoc Health uses many of the same principles that traditional hospitals and health systems practice, Dr. Tibbels said.

It starts with clinicians

Ensuring effective clinical quality begins with hiring and supporting high-quality physicians. To do this, Teladoc Health has implemented various measures, including providing virtual care and HIPAA compliance education to physicians upfront. The telehealth company also places an emphasis on physician education, ensuring providers receive proper virtual medicine training when they first join the company's network. 

Despite the focus that Teladoc Health has placed on providing virtual care training for its providers, the company is far from being just a technology platform. The company leverages technology as a supplement to improve clinical quality and the overall healthcare delivery.

"[From a clinical standpoint] we really view ourselves as a healthcare service organization built around great technology … which is really important and colors the way we look at managing quality," Dr. Tibbels said.

Delivering a high-quality patient experience

Providing physicians with the necessary educational tools to deliver quality care via telehealth is central to clinical quality.

To ensure physicians meet its clinical quality standards, Teladoc Health offers resources such as peer outreach and coaching for physicians to enhance their care delivery via the virtual care platform. However, to pinpoint physicians who are in need of extra support, Teladoc Health performs random chart audits, which allow the company to examine factors including a physician's clinical documentation and practice guideline adherence as well as patient safety concerns.

While the chart audits help the company establish a clearer picture and address factors that contribute to less satisfactory clinical quality, it has found success with surveillance by leveraging data analytics. Performing data analysis helps Teladoc Health deliver quality virtual medicine at scale because it allows the ability to examine data across all its providers and care interactions to identify key performance indicators and key measures.

"We don't want to go to the haystack and dig through looking for the needle," Dr. Tibbels said. "We want the metal detector to tell us what part of the haystack needs to be looked at so the chart audits become more focused." The "metal detector," or data analytics, streamline the surveillance process and allow Teladoc Health to zero-in on aspects of care delivery that physicians may be struggling with. 

Forming hospital and health system-based partnerships

The ability to connect with other physicians through peer coaching to improve clinical quality is a unique opportunity for providers within the telehealth industry. While Teladoc Health has instituted a fellowship program at Philadelphia-based Thomas Jefferson University to train fellows in virtual care, there are not many other educational opportunities within the healthcare field focused on creating virtual providers, Dr. Vyas said.

"There is just really not enough education going out to help create virtualists," Dr. Vyas said. "Having that peer-to-peer and physician outreach is really important and helps Teladoc train and educate our physicians from the beginning as well as when they are out and seeing patients on our platform."

To access the full webinar, click here.

More articles on telehealth: 
Teladoc Health integrates virtual care platform with Epic EHR: 5 things to know
Lack of internet access limits telemedicine usage in rural Indiana
Telemedicine may be as effective for neurological disorders as in-person office visits, analysis finds

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