In the nearly three years since the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency (PHE) was enacted, the use of telehealth services by Medicare beneficiaries has increased by over 6,000%. Telehealth’s efficacy has been closely examined as its use has expanded (including in the Center’s Special Report on the topic).
The World Health Organization (WHO) recently published its own report “Consolidated Telemedicine Implementation Guide” outlining recommendations to sustain telehealth services beyond the COVID-19 pandemic. The guide is intended for policy makers and those who will be designing and overseeing the rollout of telemedicine services.
The WHO report includes broad recommendations along with a detailed three-phase/eleven-step telemedicine implementation plan. The WHO advises that the following must be ensured in provider-to-provider telemedicine settings: (1) telemedicine should complement, not replace, the delivery of clinical care, and (2) patient “safety, privacy, traceability, accountability and security can be monitored.” These recommendations align with the Center’s guiding principles for expanding telehealth services published in 2020.
The report also addresses the fact that some countries potentially have implemented telemedicine in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, the services might have been implemented “with limited guidance, infrastructure or underlying regulatory guidelines.” The WHO has developed a detailed implementation plan for assistance. The three main phases of the plan include situational assessment, implementation, and monitoring and evaluation. Those phases are further broken down into eleven steps offering instruction such as enforcement mechanisms and developing a budget. WHO Chief Scientist, Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, expressed hope for telemedicine’s global impact. “Harnessing the power of digital technologies,” according to Dr. Swaminathan, “is paramount for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.”
December 1, 2022 – C. St. John
 World Health Organization. “Consolidated Telemedicine Implementation Guide.” (Nov. 9, 2022). Available at: https://www.who.int/publications/i/item/9789240059184