The Telehealth Transition and Improving Health Systems


Supporting Health Systems in Advancing Care Delivery


Leveraging Telehealth to Improve Health Systems

Evaluation of the rapid transition to telehealth due to the COVID-19 pandemic will inform patient care post-COVID-19 to ensure equal access and high-quality care.

Crisis mode activated

The COVID-19 pandemic presented the healthcare system with one of the biggest public health crises in modern time, requiring healthcare organizations to quickly deploy emergency operation models to deliver care. Across the country, healthcare organizations transitioned to telehealth and implemented the requisite infrastructure to accommodate a range of services for millions of Americans. While the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) in Charleston had a previously existing emergency plan including telehealth consultation and screenings, in the early weeks of the pandemic, MUSC expanded its telehealth programs. However, MUSC did not expect the diverse needs and high volume of services during the initial months of the pandemic. Thus, Drs. Kit Simpson and Jillian Harvey wanted to analyze MUSC’s telehealth response and identify areas of need to better prepare the health system for future emergencies.

Taking a larger look

This research focused on evaluating the telehealth response to the pandemic with an aim towards understanding how to improve the response for future emergencies. In particular, the research focused on addressing disparities in care. To best identify issues of access, quality, and disparities within telehealth services, the researchers developed social determinants of health measures by abstracting data from their EHR system. As the research moves forward, the team will collect qualitative and quantitative data on healthcare use, barriers to care, and patient experience. The focus will include care among vulnerable populations, with people from rural communities and digital deserts and patients suffering from stroke, sickle cell disease, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s disease.

Based on the initial research, a dashboard was developed to show real-time feedback on how ambulatory telehealth affects care; this will allow for better planning around resource allocation or restructuring of current healthcare delivery models. Telehealth informing patient care post-COVID-19 to ensure equal access and high-quality care Through EHR telehealth data analysis, patient and healthcare provider surveys and interviews, and examination of the healthcare costs during COVID-19, this research will provide insights for how best to restructure care with telehealth implementation. Findings will provide evidence needed to better prepare healthcare systems in future emergencies and to mitigate effects of racial, geographic, and economic disparities present in the current healthcare delivery systems.

“The pandemic didn’t hit everybody equally, and we were getting increasingly concerned about disparities. We’ve always been rule-focused. We’ve always been primary care focused and concerned about getting expert services out into a rural area. It became very clear that some tools were missing.”
- Dr. Kit Simpson