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Rural Health Information Hub

Resources Needed for Implementing Telehealth Programs

Rural programs may require several different kinds of resources, such as physical space, staffing, technology, and partnerships, to implement and expand telehealth services.

Physical Space

There are several considerations for establishing a physical space that is appropriate for delivering telehealth services. The American Telemedicine Association recommends that healthcare programs design private telehealth workspaces that maximize patient confidentiality. This could include a room where private conversations cannot be easily overheard and with a lockable door. Appropriate lighting is also critical to successful live-video telehealth encounters. Lighting can affect a provider's abilities to accurately assess the patient's state and gather diagnostic clues.


Many rural programs designate a staff member to serve as a telehealth coordinator who can manage telehealth referrals, brief the patient on telehealth services, coordinate with the telehealth provider, facilitate the technological aspects of the visits, and schedule follow-ups as necessary. The California Telehealth Resource Center (TRC) offers free Telehealth Coordinator Online Training that provides additional information about this role.


Common types of telehealth technology that rural programs might need include videoconferencing software, telemedicine carts equipped with cameras and screens, and remote patient monitoring devices. The National Telehealth Technology Assessment Resource Center can help rural communities select the most appropriate telehealth technology for their program. Rural communities may need to apply for grant funding to support initial costly investments in technology or the addition of new technologies. For example, telehealth programs seeking to implement a program that uses mHealth may need to pay for smartphones or tablets for participants in rural areas, where mobile device ownership lags behind that of urban areas. The Health Resources and Services Administration provides considerations for finding a telehealth vendor.


Many rural programs rely on partnerships to implement, expand, and sustain telehealth services. Some communities build affiliations with partner organizations in order to receive access to telehealth technologies and resources. For example, affiliates of the Finger Lakes Community Health Telehealth Network pay a subscription fee to receive discounts for broadband services. Other communities partner with academic medical centers or larger regional hospitals in order to receive access to specialty care services through telehealth. Rural communities should consider how partnerships will contribute to or create challenges for sustainability. For example, some partners can support sustainability by sharing their telehealth experiences; helping demonstrate a return on investment; and contributing in-kind services, including telementoring and training. However, rural telehealth programs may need to consider where partners are located and whether they can support the costs of licensing and credentialing additional providers, particularly those located in different states.

Telehealth Resource Centers (TRCs) provide comprehensive guides and toolkits that can help rural communities to better understand the kinds of resources that contribute to successful telehealth programs. The California TRC's telehealth program developer kit includes checklists, instructions, templates, and activities to guide communities from inception to evaluation of a telehealth program. The Northeast TRC also created the Roadmap for Planning Development of Clinical Telemedicine Services, which offers a collection of tools and framing questions for implementation.

Resources to Learn More

See How Others are Succeeding in Telehealth
Reviews best practices and lessons learned from field experience and discussion with experts demonstrating how implementing telehealth services can improve clinical efficiency, reduce healthcare costs, and improve the lives for rural and underserved patients.
Organization(s): California Telehealth Resource Center (CTRC)

Telehealth Implementation Playbook
Provides guidance for physicians, their team members, and healthcare administrators when implementing digital health technology. Offers a series of steps, best practices, and resources to accelerate and achieve the adoption of telehealth implementation.
Organization(s): American Medical Association (AMA)
Date: 4/2020