January 22, 2021 – As healthcare providers look to launch or expand their telehealth networks, a key ingredient to success and sustainability is a staff that knows how to use the technology.
A telehealth bill introduced earlier this month by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo includes the launch of an open-access continuing professional education telehealth training program. The program, developed by the Reimagine New York Commission with help from, among others, the Northeast Telehealth Resource Center, Stony Brook Medicine, Weill Cornell Medicine and Cityblock Health, is among the first of its kind, and could be a model for telehealth training efforts across the country.
“As telehealth has proven to be a fundamental tool for providers and health systems to meet the challenges of delivering care and protecting patients during the COVID-19 public health emergency, Governor Cuomo recently proposed expanding and improving access to it as part of his 2021 State of the State agenda,” says Jonah Bruno, Director of Public Information for the New York State Department of Health. “This new telehealth training portal will be an especially vital resource for independent and community providers who may lack the resources of larger networks, and those who serve higher needs populations.”
The federally funded program is unique in part because of its participants – a mixture of state agencies, health systems and NETRC, part of the National Consortium of Telehealth Resource Centers. Some 26 New York health systems, hospitals, agencies and organizations comprise the program’s advisory board, ensuring that resources are as relevant for providers in New York City as they are for those located in the North Country.
“The advisory group … will identify gaps in existing telehealth training and will identify delegates and partners to provide subject matter expertise in the development of additional training content to teach organizations and providers how to optimize the telehealth experience for patients and clients,” its organizers say.
The program is a direct response to the surge of telehealth use during the coronavirus pandemic. Many providers have launched telehealth programs on the fly, focusing more on speed than stability. Now they need help making sure all the parts are in the right places.
“Since the start of the pandemic, healthcare professionals have done a heroic job of adapting to remote care – yet this adjustment has not been easy,” says Maurie McInnis, president of Stony Brook University and a member of the Reimagine New York Commission. “The commission has heard from medical providers across the state in search of more robust guidelines, best practices, and training to ensure they can fully translate their high standards for care into the virtual world.”
The portal is hosted and facilitated by NETRC and Medical Care Development, with help from the New York State Department of Health and Stony Brook Medicine. The idea is to get state-sanctioned training modules and other resources into the hands of care providers, giving them the information they need to develop connected care services that meet state guidelines and address specific needs.
“Based on feedback from colleagues across New York and the broader region we serve, the structure of an e-learning portal is an ideal solution to make resources and training readily available to the healthcare workforce, as they prepare to effectively integrate telehealth into practice,” adds NETRC Director Danielle Louder.
That’s an often overlooked challenge nowadays. With every state developing its own unique policies and regulations, care providers can be overwhelmed in trying to find the right information. And it’s even more important in the midst of a pandemic, when providers are rushing to launch telehealth and mHealth programs to fill gaps in care.
Andrew Solomon, the NETRC’s senior program manager, says the center – one of 12 regional and two national resource centers scattered across the country – has seen “dramatic increases in requests for telehealth education resources across the region.” This includes not only providers looking to launch or bolster their platforms, but teaching hospitals and educational institutions looking for updated training resources.
“In collaboration with the National Consortium of Telehealth Resource Centers, we’ve been working with a variety of stakeholders to create both real-time and on-demand training for the existing workforce, as well as students,” he says.
Solomon says the program offers a framework for telehealth education that could be adopted in other states and regions as well, with adjustments to address the specific needs and challenges facing each area.