Michael Carter, Partners Healthcare's enterprise manager of video and telemedicine systems, offered a few observations from a higher level. When looking out over the entire health system, he said, administrators should:
- Integrate with something that clinicians use every day.
- Make the process easy – the easier, the more likely it will be adopted into the workflow.
- Understand how this affects the consumer.
- Realize that the cloud is not necessarily the better option.
- Expect failures and challenges and several iterations, and learn from them.
Maulik Majmudar, associate director of Mass General's Heart Center Innovation Lab, pointed out that telehealth initiatives are fighting an uphill battle these days with other system-wide projects, such as EMR implementations or the bumpy transition from ICD-9 to ICD-10.
"It's a new technology," he said. "There's a learning curve, and there are a lot of requirements of physicians nowadays."
To that end, Taylan Bozkurt, an operations and financial specialist in Mass General's Department of Surgery, advised those just launching a telehealth project to "don't let your goal blur your path to success." Make the process gradual and inclusive, he said, and don't be afraid the challenge assumptions – "stress the system but don't break the system," he said.
"Telehealth isn't a quick process improvement project," he said.
In terms of creating a curriculum for telehealth success, Majmedar pointed out that no one is teaching telehealth at the medical school level, so the industry is basically training itself. And in a nod to the many competing health networks in the field, Joseph Kvedar, the director of Partner's Healthcare's Center for Connected Health, noted the industry is young enough that everyone can collaborate and benefit.
Kvedar added one last bit of advice. Because the industry is so new, he said, it's not easily accepted by clinicians, who have their workflows and don't want to mess with their routines. They need to be prodded – sometimes reluctantly – into telehealth.
"It's scary for clinicians," he said. "But that probably means we're in the right space."