For Avizia Chief Executive Officer Mike Baird, becoming the first telehealth provider to achieve URAC Telehealth Accreditation is about more than demonstrating his organization’s commitment to delivering the highest level of quality. It’s also about promoting the entire concept of telehealth in the minds of patients and providers.
Baird and his Avizia team will use URAC accreditation as a “showcase for providers in the marketplace,” he told The URAC Report. With accreditation, Avizia’s leaders will assume thought leader positions from which they can make a compelling case that telehealth care can be equal or superior to the care patients have been getting from an in-person visit, he said. It is one of the ways patients and others can “look under the hood” to assure themselves about telehealth capabilities broadly, and Avizia‘s skillset more specifically, Baird said.
The importance of accreditation has never been clearer, practitioners say. Telehealth remains a relatively new area of medicine, noted Robert Bernstein, MD, Avizia’s vice president of clinical affairs. “Consumers see it has a lot of value, but they also believe it has risk,” said Bernstein.
Bernstein and others at Avizia quickly recognized the value of accreditation by a bona fide third party. The program’s transparency makes “patients feel more comfortable, and that makes it a strong sell to health systems,” Bernstein explained.
Deborah Smith, URAC project development principal, worked closely with Dr. Bernstein and team during the entire accreditation process. “They set out to be first and worked really hard to achieve it,” she said. Smith leads the development of URAC’s new accreditations.
“Industry leaders came to us and said they wanted to develop a robust set of standards to ensure a very high level of performance enterprise-wide,” Smith explained. URAC worked with entities across the provider spectrum, including Avizia and others, to define and measure those standards. Click here to see the full list of Telehealth Expert Panel members.
As a beta tester, Avizia took about a year to attain its accreditation milestone. “It was hard, and we wanted it to be hard,” Baird said.
“It was a challenging accreditation,” Bernstein echoed. “I give URAC credit for attacking this.”
Avizia’s commitment to quality has led its high clinical standards. As an example, Avizia’s average visit time is 20 minutes, far longer than average visit times reported by leading fee-for-service commercial providers. Likewise, Avizia’s providers prescribe medication in approximately 46 percent of visits, the typical prescription rate for commercial telehealth visits is 77 percent.
The team at Avizia takes its role seriously, both as a provider of quality care, and as a key component of its partner’s local reputation. “We’re often representative of the hospital,” Baird explained. “If they don’t have enough providers to staff a program, we step in to help. We’re an extension of their operations.”
Striving for, and attaining, URAC accreditation “fits perfectly with our mission of extending the reach of healthcare with higher quality and at lower costs,” Baird said.
Avizia “had the ambition to differentiate themselves from their peers and they worked hard to do just that,” Smith said.
URAC is currently engaged with a second group of providers seeking accreditation. After adjusting and making improvements based on experience gleaned with Avizia and others in the beta group, Smith said she expects the process should take less time and require a fewer number of measures.
By earning URAC accreditation, Avizia has demonstrated a commitment to quality healthcare,” said URAC President and CEO Kylanne Green. “Quality healthcare is crucial to our nation’s welfare, and it is important to have organizations that are willing to measure themselves against national standards and undergo rigorous evaluation by an independent accrediting body. Key stakeholders recognize URAC accreditation, and those organizations that have gone the extra mile to pursue our Telehealth Accreditation will distinguish themselves in the marketplace.
URAC is eyeing a January launch for Telehealth Accreditation 2.0.