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Importance of Sustainability Planning for Telehealth Programs

To achieve sustainability, rural telehealth programs may need to demonstrate that the program has had a measurable impact on the lives of people served by the program and the overall community. Evaluation activities can help demonstrate this value by tracking progress on process and outcome measures of telehealth programs.

Long-term sustainability also depends on successful implementation and adoption of telehealth services. The Northeast Telehealth Resource Center's Roadmap for Planning Development of Clinical Telemedicine Services provides key considerations for integrating sustainability strategies into program planning. For example, rural programs should assess their patient mix and insurance status to determine how reimbursement policies will affect their sustainability plans (see Sustainability Strategies).

Many telehealth programs also develop a business plan to strategize for long-term sustainability. Key considerations for rural communities developing business or sustainability plans include:

  • Understanding the demand for telehealth in the community and the kinds of strategies that will best meet identified needs
  • Assessing current workflow and identifying what kinds of resources are needed to integrate telehealth into practice
  • Identifying a champion to drive telehealth adoption, address issues, and identify programs for continued use
  • Providing adequate training and support for staff to ensure the best possible experience for staff and patients
  • Budgeting for implementation, maintenance, and periodic upgrades of technology
  • Marketing telehealth services to community members, providers, and other stakeholders
  • Understanding the regulatory environment to understand ongoing costs for reimbursement, licensing, and credentialing
  • Building partnerships with payers to expand coverage for telehealth services

The Telehealth Resource Centers provide free technical assistance to rural communities seeking to create sustainability plans for telehealth programs.

Resources to Learn More

Telehealth Project Financial Projections Spreadsheet
Document
Provides a template for a telehealth business plan and budgeting tool. Prompts telehealth programs to map out their revenue streams and expenses.
Organization(s): American Telemedicine Association Business and Finance Special Interest Group