Telehealth is the delivery of healthcare services at a distance. It encompasses services like telemedicine and remote monitoring and the buzzwords like eHealth, mHealth, and Health 2.0.

With technology and ubiquitous connectivity no longer a hurdle, the question is not if, but when telehealth will become the standard modality by which we will receive our care.

But healthcare is conservative and only changes slowly. And financial success and telehealth sustainability are far from being a "given". Only with a comprehensive plan will you succeed in getting your telehealth services established and making them last.

A Telehealth Business Plan (or Strategic Plan, Business Case) systematically helps to guide your team's efforts and is the difference between failure and success.

For one healthcare organization, we developed a strategic plan up front and went from 0 to 700 annual visits across eight different medical specialties in under 2 years. Another healthcare organization without an overarching plan is all over the place with many initiatives fizzling out after just a few years.

Just like any other business, a Telehealth Business Plan is tremendously valuable in ensuring a healthcare organization's success in its journey toward integrating telehealth into their arsenal of healthcare delivery tools.

A well-developed business plan provides a vision that aligns with the organization's overall strategy. It helps busy staff to find the answer to the inevitable question "why is this important?" and "why should I care?".

Next, a business plan lays out a road map for how best to get started, what other services lie ahead (e.g., so nobody feels left out). That is, a business plan builds the necessary buy-in across the organization to secure its support.

A business plan also aims to build a financial case and quantify the initial investment, short-term cost and long-term benefits - both direct and indirect. A business plan also gives leaders the opportunity to set the direction and to pledge their support. Furthermore it gives key stakeholders the opportunity (e.g., nursing, IT, department chairs) to influence the strategy before it is implemented.

Without a telehealth business plan, the implementation of a telehealth service has numerous opportunities to encounter resistance from all sides: IT, finance, billing, nursing, providers, and even patients. Without a plan, implementations can drag on forever, especially if the opportunity of a good "first impression" is missed.

In my experience a well thought out plan that engages key opinion leaders is the key reason for immediate and lasting, sustainable success; especially if the long-term goal is to incorporate elements of telehealth and telemedicine across the organization.

In summary, the value of a business plan lies in increased buy-in, a much smoother implementation, and fewer no false-starts. There will also be less wasted resources, such as the investment in the wrong technology, or the failure to establish a service because a key champion leaves the organization.

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