The Joint Commission releases Quick Safety on use of telehealth amid COVID-19 pandemic

Wednesday, October 07 2020

Media Contact:  
Maureen Lyons  
Corporate Communications  
(630) 792-5171  
mlyons@jointcommission.org  

(OAKBROOK TERRACE, Illinois, October 7, 2020) – The use of telehealth during the COVID-19 pandemic has skyrocketed, enabling the timely delivery and continuity of safe patient care while preventing exposure to the coronavirus. This continuity of care is especially important for patients with chronic disease, the elderly, and behavioral health care patients who require routine check-ins with their providers.  
 
A new Quick Safety advisory from The Joint Commission titled “The optimal use of telehealth to deliver safe patient care” shares information on the benefits of telehealth, as well as its barriers and challenges.  
 
Benefits include being able to promote social distancing, aid in monitoring the progression of home-quarantined COVID-19 patients, enable providers who are quarantined but asymptomatic to provide care remotely, reduce the use of personal protective equipment (PPE), and help patients with transportation barriers connect with their care providers.  
 
Challenges include not being able to reach patients who are not technologically capable, limited access to technological devices or connectivity issues, and problems monitoring the quality and safety of telehealth.  
 
The advisory also provides several safety actions and strategies that health care providers and organizations should consider to optimize the use of telehealth to deliver safe and effective care to patients during the public health emergency, including: 

  • Set up your telehealth system for success. Establish key metrics for success (i.e. number of patients seen via telehealth, reductions in no-shows and clinical outcomes) and ensure that your vendor can give you easy access to data needed to support the key metrics.  
  • Consider how your clinical services can most effectively be used via telehealth. Develop protocols for virtual care, as well as determine standards for which specific symptoms and conditions can be managed virtually.  
  • Follow through on the details to make telehealth work efficiently with your workflow. Train staff on the telehealth workflow, define roles and responsibilities for both patients and staff, and explain new processes or procedures. Be sure to integrate staff feedback into the scheduling process.  
  • Use data and other feedback on your telehealth experiences to make improvements. Give clinicians real-time access to patient data and enable the collection of remote patient monitoring into the electronic health record, particularly temperature and pulse oximetry data, blood pressure and glucose.  

“Telehealth has provided a safe option for many high-risk patients during COVID-19 by allowing them to seek medical care while avoiding unnecessary exposure to the pandemic,” says Christina Cordero, PhD, MPH, project director, Department of Standards and Survey Methods, The Joint Commission. “While telehealth does not come without its own set of barriers and challenges, its benefits can be maximized when health care organizations consider safety actions and strategies to provide safe and quality care through telehealth.”  

Resources from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, American Medical Association and Institute for Healthcare Improvement are highlighted in the advisory, as well as guidance from several medical associations.  
 
For more information and to read the latest Quick Safety, visit The Joint Commission website. The advisory may be reproduced if credited to The Joint Commission.  

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About The Joint Commission  
Founded in 1951, The Joint Commission seeks to continuously improve health care for the public, in collaboration with other stakeholders, by evaluating health care organizations and inspiring them to excel in providing safe and effective care of the highest quality and value. The Joint Commission accredits and certifies more than 22,000 health care organizations and programs in the United States. An independent, nonprofit organization, The Joint Commission is the nation’s oldest and largest standards-setting and accrediting body in health care. Learn more about The Joint Commission at www.jointcommission.org.

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