- The National Quality Forum on Tuesday published two reports aimed at improving telehealth quality and health IT interoperability.
- In one report, Creating a Framework to Support Measure Development for Telehealth, NQF offers a framework for measuring the quality and impact of telehealth services.
- The other report, Interoperability 2016-2017 Final Report, examines the current state of interoperability and how that affects quality of care processes and outcomes.
To assess telehealth, NQF focuses on four areas: patient access to care, financial impact on patients and providers, patient and clinician experience and effectiveness of clinical and operational systems. Within those categories, six factors — travel, timeliness of care, actionable information, contribution to evidence-based practice, patient empowerment and care coordination — are key, the report says.
In all, the report includes 17 NQF-endorsed measures to measure telehealth quality using the suggested framework.
NQF’s interoperability report proposes a four-pronged approach to measuring electronic data sharing: electronic health data exchange, usability, application and impact. The report identifies 53 measures assessing interoperability in the short-term, midterm and long-term
Telehealth offers the promise of greater patient convenience at lower rates than an office visit, but has raised concerns about whether patients receive the same level of care compared with an in-person encounter.
Last year, the American Medical Association adopted ethical guidance on how doctors should interact with patient when they do so through telemedicine, rather in a hospital or medical office. The American Telemedicine Association has also issued guidance, most recently on use of telehealth to treat stroke victims and behavioral issues in youth.
Interoperability is critical to realizing the full benefits of telehealth and other health IT advances that have proliferated in the post-Affordable Care Act environment. As more patients receive care in ambulatory and virtual care settings, being able to integrate health data from diverse sources will be crucial to understanding a patient’s well-being.
The 21st Century Cures Act, signed into law in December, charges the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT with creating a framework to foster greater interoperability between healthcare stakeholders. ONC is still in the early stages of developing rulemaking on that mandate.