An initiative launched by the American Academy of Pediatrics in 2015 is set to unveil a set of standards aimed at measuring the effectiveness of pediatric telehealth programs across the country.
– A program launched in 2015 to study pediatric telehealth services has unveiled a set of standards aimed at improving hospital programs across the country.
The Supporting Pediatric Research on Outcomes and Utilization of Telehealth (SPROUT) program, developed by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), is set to publish a paper in Pediatrics that lays out the guidelines for analyzing the effectiveness of pediatric telehealth programs.
The article was made available for prepublication release due to urgency of evaluating connected health programs in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, which has seen telehealth use skyrocket. The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) for example, saw daily telehealth visits jump from as many as 10 to more than 1,500, while the Ann & Robert Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago trained more than 800 providers in just a few weeks to handle the surge.
“Now is a critical opportunity to systematically evaluate telehealth care delivery, identify patient cohorts who can benefit, and explore ways to incorporate telehealth into patient care workflows,” the article, authored by John Chuo, MD, MS, IA, and Scott Lorch, MD, MSCE, of CHOP and the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine and Michelle Macy, MD, MS, of Northwestern University, states. “This knowledge will evolve our healthcare system to improve how care is delivered now and during crises.”
“While a few measurement standards exist to guide the assessment of telehealth’s impact on care delivered, current literature lacks a unified approach to evaluate telehealth in pediatric healthcare delivery,” Chuo and his colleagues note.
The article lays out a guide to telehealth evaluation called the STEM (SPROUT Telehealth Evaluation and Measurement) profile, which pulls together concepts developed by the National Quality Forum (NQF), World Health Organization (WHO) and Agency for Health Research and Quality (AHRQ). From that work, the STEM profile outlines four measurement domains: health outcomes; health delivery – quality and cost; experience; and program implementation and key performance indicators.
“Findings from rigorous telehealth program evaluation in these areas can inform data driven reimbursement and policy changes that encourages appropriate telehealth use, especially amidst the explosion of telehealth services associated with the COVID pandemic,” the paper concludes.
The STEM profile comes out of a 2019 initiative by SPROUT to create a national database for pediatric telehealth research and best practices. Spearheaded by the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC), one of two federally recognized telehealth centers of excellence and funded by a $3.6 million federal grant, the initiative aims to support “the development of telehealth research efforts, metric development, identification of best practices and the development of collaborative policy and advocacy materials” specific to pediatric programs.
“This is a huge step forward in the development of safe and impactful telehealth programs across the country,” S. David McSwain, MD, a physician with MUSC Children’s Health, associate professor of pediatric critical care and chief medical information officer who helped develop the program, said at the time. “Academic research into the real impact of telehealth services is a critical component of developing and growing programs with the greatest potential to improve our health care system. Many physicians and other health care providers are hesitant about incorporating telehealth into their practices because it’s difficult to separate the theoretical benefits from the real value.”
“Research into the real impact of telehealth services is a critical part of developing and growing programs with the greatest potential to improve our health care system,” he added. “Many doctors and other health care providers are hesitant about incorporating telehealth into their practices because it’s difficult to separate the theoretical benefits from the real value.”