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As Telemedicine Expands, Quality Measures Try to Keep Pace

Analysis  |  By Tinker Ready  
   September 14, 2017

Data is thin, but the search is on for the best ways to measure the quality of healthcare that is being delivered via telehealth to remote patients.

Remember when you had to go to the video store to catch up on (and return) the movies you wanted to see?

Fast and cheap digital bandwidth enabled the digital streaming that essentially put video stores out of business. Now broadband is changing the way healthcare is delivered.

It is now even cheaper and faster to move large data files than it was only a few years ago. But how good is the quality of care that is delivered via a video screen?

Providers say that for many consults, telemedicine is just as good as in-person care delivered in a clinic or exam room. But the evidence to support these assertions is thin.

Now comes the National Quality Forum's attempt to start the discussion on quality measures for telemedicine. The 80-page report does not endorse any measures – although it suggests some candidates. The report instead offers "a framework to support the development of measures."

A Step Forward

"It's another example of how the field is maturing," says Joseph Kvedar, MD, the vice-president for connected health at Partners Healthcare. His operation has been holding annual Connected Health meetings for 12 years. The next one is next month in Boston.

Telemedicine was initially seen as a way to extend access to care to rural communities. That was a couple of decades ago. Now "anything that has to do with connectivity seems be moving at the speed of light," Kvedar says.

Quality remains a hurdle, however.

Tinker Ready is a contributing writer at HealthLeaders Media.

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