Measuring Telehealth

Measuring telehealth may be the key unlocking a flood of service options for payers and their members. Telehealth services, which unite technology with healthcare, health information, and health education, have grown substantially over the past 15 years and are expected to increase due to new reimbursement strategies for Medicare providers who offer telehealth services as part of the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA). With technology racing out in front of reimbursement policies, any cost savings, quality improvement, or increased access to care waited until now.

The National Quality Forum (NQF) released a report, with case studies and detailed public comments section, identifying critical areas where measurement can effectively assess the quality and impact of telehealth services.

Measuring Telehealth Domains

NQF identifies critical areas where measurement can effectively assess the quality and impact of telehealth services through the following general domains:

  • Patients’ access to care
    • Access for patient, family, and/or caregiver
    • Access for care team
    • Access to information
  • Financial impact to patients and their care team
    • Financial impact to patient, family, and/or caregiver
    • Financial impact to care team
    • Financial impact to health system or payer
    • Financial impact to society
  • Patient and clinician experience
    • Patient, family, and/or caregiver experience
    • Care team member experience
    • Community experience
  • Effectiveness of clinical and operational systems.
    • System effectiveness
    • Clinical effectiveness
    • Operational effectiveness
    • Technical effectiveness

Within these categories, NQF identified six key areas for measurement as having the highest priority for telehealth, including:

  • Travel
  • Timeliness of care
  • Actionable information
  • Added Value of Telehealth to Provide Evidence-Based Best Practices
  • Patient Empowerment
  • Care Coordination

NQF’s Telehealth Committee identified 16 NQF-endorsed measures that can be used initially to measure telehealth quality in the structure outlined above. These measures span a variety of conditions, ranging from mental and behavioral health to care coordination.

“For many patients, telehealth can mean the difference between seeing their doctor or receiving no care at all,” said Judd Hollander, MD, associate dean for strategic health initiatives at Thomas Jefferson University, and co-chair of NQF’s Telehealth Committee. “NQF’s framework for measuring telehealth quality will be key to helping ensure quality care, no matter where people access it.”