Center for Telehealth Service Design

Stefan Agamanolis, PhD

Stefan Agamanolis, PhD

The Center for Telehealth Service Design is an organization-wide initiative at Akron Children's Hospital that aims to develop knowledge and expertise in the design of telehealth service solutions, with an emphasis on pediatrics.

The center conducts research studies and pilots, and applies the resulting know-how to launch and refine innovative and sustainable telehealth services.

What is Telehealth?

Telehealth, or telemedicine, refers to the delivery of healthcare services and information with the help of telecommunication technologies.

Telehealth services can vary widely, from relatively simple solutions that provide the ability to meet with a specialist over a video conference system, to more sophisticated systems that enable performing surgical operations using remotely controlled robots.

Even something as commonplace as receiving advice from a physician over the phone can be regarded as a form of telehealth.

An increasing number of studies demonstrate that telehealth can:

These benefits lead to better long-term health outcomes.

Technology is the easy part

Certain factors have hindered telehealth from reaching its full potential. In the early days of telehealth, technological capability was the main hindering factor.

In recent years, however, a number of key “enabling technologies” emerged as products and are becoming less expensive, such as high-definition video communication systems and remote examination tools like digital otoscopes and stethoscopes.

The cost of broadband network connectivity has also decreased, making it easy to send high quality audio and video via the Internet reliably and securely. These developments have led to a tipping point where basic technology issues are no longer the main challenge.

Today, telehealth programs more often encounter difficulties because the services themselves have not been formulated in a way that caters to the needs and sensibilities of the people who use or deliver them. Perhaps the technologies have not been applied in a way that is useable by one or more parties, or the service model has not been constructed in a way that allows for a seamless transition from conventional practices.

These are design problems, specifically “service design,” "interface design," and “experience design” problems.

In addition, the slow pace of political change combined with a lack of recognition of the benefits of telehealth has hindered the modernization of healthcare reimbursement practices, making it difficult to create sustainable business models for many forms of telehealth that may be beneficial.

Overcoming Barriers

The Akron Children’s Center for Telehealth Service Design was established to address these issues. Our center employs the principles of human-centered participatory design, which aims to engage all stakeholders (patients, parents, physicians, nurses, site administrators, and so on) in the ongoing design process for new products and services.

In addition to our focus on design challenges, we also engage on a policy front, taking an active role in disseminating information about the benefits of telehealth and participating in discussions in the commercial and governmental spheres in an effort to improve payment practices to make telehealth services more financially viable.

Together, our endeavors contribute significantly toward the regional aim of expanding access to much needed health services for medically underserved populations, as well as the global aim to elevate telehealth to its full potential as a "standard of care."

For more information, contact us at telehealth@chmca.org.

Photo

Stefan Agamanolis, PhD

Senior Director, Patient Experience;
Associate Director, Rebecca D. Considine Research Institute


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