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The Joint Commission Releases Quick Safety on Use of Telehealth
A new Quick Safety advisory from The Joint Commission titled The Optimal Use of Telehealth to Deliver Safe Patient Care shares information on the benefits of telehealth, as well as its barriers and challenges, according to an October 7 press release.
The use of telehealth has skyrocketed during the COVID-19 pandemic, enabling the timely delivery and continuity of safe patient care while preventing exposure to the coronavirus. This continuity of care is especially important for patients with chronic disease, the elderly and behavioral healthcare patients who require routine check-ins with their providers.
The benefits of telehealth include the ability to socially distance, aid in monitoring the progression of home-quarantined COVID-19 patients, the ability to quarantined, asymptomatic providers to provide care remotely, reduction in the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) and help in connecting patients with transportation barriers with their care providers.
Challenges include not being able to reach patients who are not technologically capable, limited access to technological devices or connectivity issues and problems monitoring the quality and safety of telehealth.
The advisory also provides several safety actions and strategies that healthcare providers and organizations should consider to optimize the use of telehealth to deliver safe and effective care to patients during the public health emergency, including:
- Set up your telehealth system for success. Establish key metrics for success (i.e., number of patients seen via telehealth, reductions in no-shows and clinical outcomes) and ensure that your vendor can give you easy access to data needed to support the key metrics.
- Consider how your clinical services can most effectively be used via telehealth. Develop protocols for virtual care, as well as determine standards for which specific symptoms and conditions can be managed virtually.
- Follow through on the details to make telehealth work efficiently with your workflow. Train staff on the telehealth workflow, define roles and responsibilities for both patients and staff and explain new processes or procedures. Be sure to integrate staff feedback into the scheduling process.
- Use data and other feedback on your telehealth experiences to make improvements. Give clinicians real-time access to patient data and enable the collection of remote patient monitoring into the electronic health record, particularly temperature and pulse oximetry data, blood pressure and glucose.
“While telehealth does not come without its own set of barriers and challenges, its benefits can be maximized when healthcare organizations consider safety actions and strategies to provide safe and quality care through telehealth,” said Christina Cordero, project director of Department of Standards and Survey Methods at The Joint Commission, in the release.
Resources from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, US Department of Health & Human Services, American Medical Association and Institute for Healthcare Improvement are highlighted in the advisory, as well as guidance from several medical associations.