AMA's Digital Health Implementation Playbook Offers How-to

Samara Rosenfeld
AUGUST 29, 2019
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Photo/Thumb have been modified. Courtesy of ra2 studio - stock.adobe.com.

Digital health tools could revolutionize healthcare. But for all their promise, these novel technologies could be useless if they are not implemented in a measured way, with guidance from legacy organizations.
 
Earlier this month, the American Medical Association (AMA) created a Digital Health Implementation Playbook to provide key steps, best practices and resources to help physicians and health systems efficiently and effectively integrate digital health tools.
 
The playbook includes 12 steps to guide proper implementation and includes resources for remote patient monitoring, checklists, practice spotlight stories and examples to provide additional support.
 
AMA will update the playbook to include new content over time.
 

The Foundation for Implementing Digital Health Tools

The best place for health executives to start is to identify areas where they want to see their organization improve, the AMA suggests.
 
Identifying a need is important because it allows the health system to prioritize resources by centering the initiative around an organizational need. This also brings purpose and context to the project, incites stability for the project and helps cement buy-in from stakeholders.
 
Healthcare executives should brainstorm organizational challenges like where efficiency is lost, where staff encounters pain point and where patients’ health and satisfaction suffer. This focus will help ensure that whatever needs the organization has can lead to tangible improvements.
 
“Before adopting any new digital health solution, first identify what areas your organization needs to address or improve, envision the outcome you hope to achieve and then look for a technology that is capable of delivering that solution,” the AMA notes in the playbook.
 
After the executives identify the need, they should form the team of who will be involved in the process.
 
A successful implementation relies heavily on engaging the right people, the AMA says.
 
It’s important to identify who will be on which teams and to consider how different staff members and stakeholders will be involved. The AMA suggests organizing key stakeholders into four different teams: core, leadership, advisory and implementation.
 
Members of each team understand their responsibilities.
 
Once the teams are assigned, the core team should help define the overall vision of success.
 
While the overall vision is necessary, executives and teams should then set short- and long-term goals with measurable metrics and a process to track progress.
 
When defining success, executives and teams should research feasible results with the solution being considered. Envisioning success helps identify the right vendors, rally the team around a common goal and bring rigor to tracking metrics.
 
Evaluating vendors allows the organization to look at developers who are similar to their health system or practice. Healthcare executives should research potential vendors, schedule demos and select one worthy of a long-term partnership.
 
The AMA suggests evaluating vendors across six key variables: business, information technology, security, usability, customer service and clinical validation.
 
The leadership team should then compile gathered content for a proposal to make the case for the technology. During the proposal, the team should introduce its recommendation to solving the problem which vendor is best suited for the job and how partnering with the vendor will deliver a positive return on investment for the health system, AMA says.
 
Making the case could allow the health system to gain input to improve the program, secure funding and obtain sponsors.
 
Finally comes contracting.
 
Healthcare executives can lay the groundwork for a long-term vendor relationship during this phase.
 
A strong contract provides aligned expectations, written and agreed upon terms to hold each party accountable and legal protection. 
 

Implementing Remote Patient Monitoring Tools

The implementation process requires more details about the digital health solution being adopted.
 
During this process, it is important to start by designing the workflow.  
 
Workflow changes will likely include clinical protocols to ensure that staff’s time is being managed efficiently with new remote patient monitoring responsibilities. Healthcare executives should consider how the health system’s electronic health record can be used to simplify communication and give staff members access to resources and relevant remote patient monitoring data.
 
Designing the workflow properly ensures that everyone understands their role and helps streamline the patient experience.
 
An important part of the design process is preparing the care team.
 
Remote patient monitoring will not be successful without technical training on the system, new workflow procedures and patient engagement materials.
 
During this time, it is necessary to make sure staff understand their key responsibilities and how data are collected, analyzed and presented to clinicians.
 
For all of this to work, the AMA suggests partnering with the patient to maximize the impact of remote patient monitoring. These solutions require daily participation from patients, so it is important to ensure they’re prepared. Patients should be educated about the program to learn how it can help assist them in reaching their goals.
 
When it comes to implementing the program, healthcare executives need to monitor the impact of it by tracking key success metrics and collecting feedback from staff and patients.
 
While in the implementation process, the program will be launched and the health system executives will be able to improve outcomes through earlier clinical intervention, generate data to validate the program’s value and better communicate with their patients about their condition and care in between appointments.
 
After implementation, healthcare executives should evaluate the success of the program based on the metrics identified when they defined success. Along with hard metrics, executives should consider how remote patient monitoring impacted patient and staff satisfaction, patient behavior and treatment compliance, the AMA says.
 
These metrics should then be used for scaling.
 
The program could expand further to improve the health system or focus on a specific condition or patient population.
 
“Despite the increasing prevalence of digital health, health system leaders struggle to drive innovation,” the AMA writes. “They are looking for a better and more efficient path to scaled implementation, but report that knowledge gained by other organizations and best practices are not readily available. This playbook is an effort to provide widespread access to institutional knowledge and best practices currently held by experts in the field.”

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