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Evaluation Strategies and Considerations for Telehealth Programs

Rural telehealth programs are complex and varied, addressing different types of health issues, healthcare challenges, technologies, populations, outcomes, and stakeholders. Therefore, no single evaluation strategy can be applied to all rural telehealth programs. A number of research and evaluation studies have investigated successful telehealth evaluation criteria. There are many aspects of telehealth programs that can be evaluated.

The California Telehealth Resource Center Telehealth Program Developer Kit defines key phases of telehealth program development and implementation, including:

  • Assess and define – Programs should determine service needs and consider their environment, define their program's model, and develop a business case for the telehealth program. Identifying these components helps telehealth programs design and frame their evaluation plans.
  • Develop and plan – Programs should focus on creating a detailed project plan while also identifying the evaluation process and metrics. This includes developing a quality improvement process, communication plan, and technology implementation plan. Ensuring evaluation measures and efforts are tailored for each component of the plan will allow programs to obtain an accurate, holistic picture of their program strengths and opportunities for improvement. Programs should consider the data needed, methods for collecting the data, ways to present the data, and the frequency at which these data analytics reports will be generated.
  • Implement and monitor – As telehealth programs implement their activities, continuous program monitoring is important to help identify potential points of improvement. Regular evaluation of the program allows the implementation team to identify areas of high and low performance and therefore make changes as needed. This information may be provided in data reports and patient satisfaction surveys.

Evaluation is important for demonstrating the value of telehealth programs, which can be fundamental to justifying continued or expanded investment in telehealth infrastructure and program operations. Strategic planning is important from the start and helps telehealth programs develop plans for evaluations that capture metrics to help show value. Incorporating a robust evaluation plan and tracking the appropriate measures can help programs to show success and build a business case. Thoughtful evaluation plans can also help programs sustain or expand over time.

Rural programs interested in conducting evaluation activities can contact regional Telehealth Resource Centers to receive free technical assistance.

Resources to Learn More

Evaluation Framework for Telemedicine Using the Logical Framework Approach and a Fishbone Diagram
Reports on a study summarizing themes from a variety of evaluation strategies with the aim to develop a comprehensive evaluation framework for telemedicine implementation.
Author(s): Chang, H.
Citation: Healthcare Informatics Research, 21(4), 230-238
Date: 10/2015

How Do I Know If It Works?
Compiles resources on telehealth program evaluation and the evidence base for telehealth efficacy and efficiency.
Organization(s): Mid-Atlantic Telehealth Resource Center