How Medical University of South Carolina used ITIL for a telehealth service management framework

The Medical University of South Carolina was charged recently by its leadership and state leaders to expand its telehealth portfolio and rapidly develop new services. That goal was helped along by some strategies gleaned from ITIL, a library of best practices to help organizations optimize their infrastructure projects.

Over time, the health system had created many checklists and processes for telehealth service development, but it started to experience growing pains during this accelerated growth phase.

For example, key stakeholders were not being engaged at the appropriate steps, which resulted in provider dissatisfaction and implementation delays. The organization needed a better structure that incorporated the whole telehealth service lifecycle and accounted for all of the complex factors that could impact the design of a new service.

To solve the problem, the Medical University of South Carolina decided to use ITIL – the Information Technology Infrastructure Library.

“Our use of ITIL is different than the traditional use, but since telehealth is really a clinical service applied over an IT service, we saw an opportunity to leverage ITIL best practices and key concepts,” said Shawn Valenta, administrator of telehealth at the Medical University of South Carolina. “We adopted the framework of ITIL and adapted it to fit our own needs.”

Staff created a telehealth service management framework that factored in all of the complexities of telehealth service development. It allowed them to create a common architecture to creating and successfully maintaining telehealth services, and it helped them better understand their strengths and weaknesses and where they had gaps that needed to be addressed, Valenta explained.

There are many vendors on the market today that offer telemedicine technology, including American Well, Avizia, GlobalMed, MDLive, Novotalk, SnapMD, Teladoc, TeleHealth Services, Tellus and Tyto Care.

Valenta had his Center for Telehealth staff go through a three-day ITIL course, and most of the team received the ITIL Foundation certification. Before the course, he prepped the team on what they would be learning and instructed them to rethink the concepts as if they were applying them to the organization’s telehealth service development process.

“I told them some of the things that they will learn will not apply and that we would also have to add new telehealth processes that are not included within ITIL,” he added. “I also had to explain to the ITIL instructor what I was trying to accomplish as it was a different audience and a different use-case than he was used to.”

After the course, Valenta assigned the team to specific phases and continued to challenge them to improve the telehealth framework with what they had learned, using ITIL as a reference tool for new ideas. Over the last year, the team has built out processes within each phase of the framework.

“We view the continual improvement of our telehealth service management framework as a journey that we are on as we continue to mature it to better serve both our internal and external customers,” he said.

Since the Medical University of South Carolina didn’t apply ITIL in the traditional sense of managing an IT service, its metrics have focused on improving the development and management of telehealth services.

“We have experienced a significant increase in new telehealth services and telehealth utilization,” Valenta said. “In addition, within the operations phase, we have prioritized our response to ‘incidents,’ which we define as any unplanned interruption of a telehealth service. These incidents can be caused by technical, personnel or operational issues, and the team continues to mature processes to minimize and mitigate these incidents.”

“Whether you are in a larger health system looking to integrate enterprise-wide telehealth adoption or just a small community hospital wanting to pilot your first telehealth service, I strongly believe that the telehealth service management framework we developed from adapting ITIL’s best practices could serve as a clear guide to navigating the many complexities that affect telehealth service development,” Valenta said.

Valenta will be discussing ITIL, telemedicine and his healthcare organization’s telehealth service management framework at HIMSS19 in a session titled, “Adapting ITIL for Effective Telehealth Service Management,” scheduled for Wednesday, February 13, from 1-2 p.m. in room W207C.

Twitter: @SiwickiHealthIT
Email the writer: [email protected]

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