The rapid expansion of virtual healthcare* in recent years has spurred a need to ensure that the delivery of that care is of high quality. Over the past two decades, virtual healthcare has grown significantly due to a variety of factors, including increasing consumer demand, ongoing physician shortages, advances in enabling technology, and changes to federal and state policies favorable to virtual health.1
In the past year especially, the COVID-19 public health emergency caused a dramatic expansion and proliferation of virtual healthcare as the pandemic severely limited in-person medical visits. Telehealth claims have already increased by approximately 3,000 percent from September 2019 to September 2020, and data suggest that $250 billion in healthcare spending could shift to virtual care models in the wake of the pandemic.2,3 While virtual healthcare offers tremendous potential to overcome geographic distance, enhance access to care, and build efficiencies, these promises are often unproven or difficult to assess. Healthcare quality measurement has not sufficiently kept up with virtual care’s expansion and evolution. Existing and new quality measures need to be reviewed, revised and developed. Best practices need to be identified and disseminated, and healthcare organizations need to better integrate virtual healthcare modalities in tandem with in-person care. Understanding how to assess and ensure virtual healthcare quality will require input from all healthcare stakeholders, including clinicians, patients and patient safety advocates, payers, hospital and health system administrators, technology leaders, policy makers, measure developers, quality experts, and others.
* The term “virtual healthcare” includes but is not limited to live videoconferencing, audio-only care provided via telephone, remote patient monitoring, and asynchronous care via a patient portal.
NQF Action Team Process
NQF convened a multistakeholder Action Team for NQF member organizations to engage, share, and learn from one another on this topic of national importance. Through a series of web meetings, the Action Team developed and shared priorities, goals, and promising practices to inspire action in others. The initiative focused on identifying key facets of measuring, improving, and ensuring high quality virtual care.
The Action Team began its work in May 2021 and concluded in early 2022. A summary of the Action Team discussions and findings is available in the Action Team on Virtual Healthcare Quality Issue Brief (PDF).
NQF Action Teams are limited to NQF member organizations in good standing. Composition of NQF Action Teams emphasizes a balance of public and private stakeholder representation and diverse perspectives, as well as content expertise and/or leadership in the virtual healthcare environment.
For more information on this project, or if your organization is interested in collaborating to advance the recommendations of the Action Team on Virtual Healthcare Quality Issue Brief (PDF), please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
NQF gratefully acknowledges support from the following organizations towards the Action Team on Virtual Healthcare Quality: Nursing Alliance for Quality Care, Silver Sponsor; Compassus, General Sponsor
1Josh Nelson, Bryan Sung, Sunil Venkataram, and Jennifer Moore, Transforming care delivery through virtual health, Deloitte, 2017
2Bestsennyy O, Gilbert G, Harris A. Telehealth: A quarter-trillion-dollar post-COVID-19 reality? McKinsey & Company; 2020. https://www.mckinsey.com/industries/healthcare-systems-and-services/our-insights/telehealtha-quarter-trillion-dollar-post-covid-19-reality. Last accessed March 2021
3Lagasse J. Telehealth claim lines increased more than 4,000% in the past year. Healthcare Finance; 2020. https://www.healthcarefinancenews.com/news/telehealth-claim-lines-increased-more-4000-past-year. Last accessed March 2021