Rapid Systemwide Implementation of Outpatient Telehealth in Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic

Gregory J. Esper, Robert L. Sweeney, Emmeline Winchell, J. Michael Duffell, Sarah C. Kier, Hallie W. Lukens, Elizabeth A. Krupinski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


The COVID-19 pandemic, with its resultant social distancing, has disrupted the delivery of healthcare for both patients and providers. Fortunately, changes to legislation and regulation in response to the pandemic allowed Emory Healthcare to rapidly implement telehealth care. Beginning in early March 2020 and continuing through the initial 2-month implementation period (when data collection stopped), clinicians received telehealth training and certification. Standard workflows created by means of a hub-and-spoke operational model enabled rapid sharing and deployment of best practices throughout the system's physician group practice. Lean process huddles facilitated successful implementation. In total, 2,374 healthcare professionals, including 986 attending physicians, 416 residents and fellows, and 555 advanced practice providers, were trained and certified for telehealth; 53,751 new- and established-patient audio-video telehealth visits and 10,539 established-patient telephone visits were performed in 8 weeks for a total of 64,290 virtual visits. This initiative included a new COVID-19 virtual patient clinic that saw 705 patients in a 6-week period. A total of $14,662,967 was charged during this time; collection rates were similar to in-person visits. Initial patient satisfaction scores were equivalent to in-person visits. We conclude that rapid deployment of virtual visits can be accomplished through a structured, organized approach including training, certification, and Lean principles. A hub-and-spoke model enables bidirectional feedback and timely improvements, thus facilitating swifter implementation and a quick rise in patient volume. Financial sustainability is achievable, but to sustain that, telehealth requires the support of continued deregulation by legislative and regulatory bodies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)443-452
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Healthcare Management
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Leadership and Management
  • Health Policy
  • Strategy and Management


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