Avera eCARE® and Harvard Medical Faculty Physicians Gather Delphi Panel for First Telehealth Certificate Curriculum Competency Development, an Effort Funded by Helmsley Charitable Trust

In an effort funded by the Helmsley Charitable Trust, Avera eCARE® and Harvard Medical Faculty Physicians (HMFP) have taken the first of several steps toward creating educational curriculum competencies for a new national telehealth certificate by hosting a Telehealth Practice Curriculum Competency Development meeting at the Harvard Club in Boston.

Creation of the telehealth certificate program, the American Board of Telehealth, and a new 5,000-square-foot telehealth education center in Sioux Falls were all funded by a generous $4.3 million grant from The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust.

Using a modified Delphi approach, a group of nationally renowned experts will develop curriculum competencies and detailed objectives for the telehealth certificate to be offered under a newly created American Board of Telehealth.

“The outcome of this process will be development of a gold standard, consistent curriculum in telehealth, taking into account the experience of a panel of experts in the field. Use of this curriculum can aid in the standardization and improvement of the telehealth practice,” said Deanna Larson, CEO of Avera eCARE, based in Sioux Falls, S.D.

“We are thrilled to have HMFP’s collaboration in the development of this first-of-its-kind curriculum,” Larson said. In 2019, Avera eCARE and Harvard Medical Faculty Physicians signed an agreement to create a broad working arrangement to create an expert consensus-driven curriculum for telehealth, educational course development, consultation and collaboration in serving students.

“This process will result in an expert validated curriculum and a greater measure of standardization of telemedicine,” said Greg Ciottone, MD, FACEP, FFSEM, Director of the Division of Disaster Medicine for Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Associate Professor of Emergency Medicine for Harvard Medical School, and President of the World Association for Disaster and Emergency Medicine. Working with Larson, Ciottone was instrumental in organizing the Delphi process for the telehealth certificate curriculum competency development. “Right now, with the absence of an oversight board, there is no standardization of how telemedicine is practiced. The creation of the American Board of Telehealth to oversee the certificate program will increase the quality of care within the practice of telemedicine,” Ciottone said.

“The Helmsley Charitable Trust is committed to numerous projects that help ensure equal access to high quality health care, especially in rural areas. We hope to train and certify thousands of practitioners in the practice of high quality telehealth, resulting in the expansion of the health care workforce that’s available to serve rural communities via technology,” said Walter Panzirer, a Trustee of the Helmsley Charitable Trust.

Avera eCARE, an extensive telehealth network that serves 450 sites in 32 states, and HMFP are providing guidance for the certificate program and the American Board of Telehealth, yet the board will be a separate entity comprised of telehealth leaders from across the nation.

During the Jan. 24 meeting in Boston, 13 individuals from all walks of telemedicine expertise gathered to analyze a literature review completed by Harvard Medical Faculty. They considered 50 competencies, giving opinions as to which competencies should be included in the curriculum.

The Delphi approach is a way of obtaining a reliable consensus of opinions by a group of experts. The initial 12-hour in-person gathering in Boston will be followed by three rounds of surveys to continue to arrive at a consensus. The 13 experts will be included as co-authors of a manuscript publishing the results of this process.

“Can you imagine a dozen experts in a room covering 50 or more topics in one day? The Delphi process allowed that to happen and as a result the group has made an unbelievable amount of progress on prioritizing elements of a broad telehealth curriculum. If telemedicine will be a tool used to deliver care that patients need, we need to create the training programs of the future. That is exactly what was done during this session,” said Judd Hollander, MD, Senior Vice President for Healthcare Delivery Innovation, Thomas Jefferson University and Associate Dean for Strategic Health Initiatives, Sidney Kimmel Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University, who served as a member of the Delphi panel.

The first telehealth certificate will be a “telehealth 101” core curriculum. It will be an online, self-paced curriculum through eight modules. In the future, the American Board of Telehealth will have the oversight to create different courses and educational tracks.  The certificate program is expected to be launched this summer.

The Delphi panel included:

  • Richard Bakalar, MD, FATA – Vice President and Chief Strategy Officer, ViTel Net
  • Robert Darling, MD – Founding Principal and Chief Medical Officer, Patronus Medical Corporation
  • William England, PhD, JD – Director, Office for Advancement of Telehealth, Federal Office of Rural Health Policy, Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA)
  • Judd Hollander, MD –  Senior Vice President for Healthcare Delivery Innovation, Thomas Jefferson University and Associate Dean for Strategic Health Initiatives, Sidney Kimmel Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University
  • Deanna Larson – CEO, Avera eCARE
  • James McElligott, MD, MSCR – Executive Medical Director, Medical University of South Carolina
  • Joseph McMenamin – Principal, McMenamin Law Offices and General Counsel for the Virginia Telehealth Network
  • Oren Mechanic, MD, MPH – Director of Telehealth, Harvard Medical Faculty Physicians at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
  • Karen S. Rheuban – Director, Center for Telehealth at the University of Virginia
  • Kelly Rhone, MD, FACEP – Medical Director of Outreach and Innovation, Avera eCARE
  • Roy Schoenberg, MD, MPH – President and CEO, American Well
  • Matthew Stanley, DO – Vice President of the Behavioral Health Clinical Service Line, Avera
  • Andrew Watson, MD, MLitt – Colorectal Surgeon, UPMC, Pittsburgh, Pa.

Delphi observers included:

  • Walter Panzirer – Trustee, The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust
  • Mitch Krebs – Program Director, Helmsley Rural Healthcare Program, The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust
  • Greg Ciottone, MD, FACEP, FFSEM – Director, Division of Disaster Medicine, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center; Associate Professor of Emergency Medicine, Harvard Medical School; and President of the World Association for Disaster and Emergency Medicine
  • Ritu Sarin, MD, MScDM, FACEP – Instructor in Emergency Medicine at Harvard Medical School, Associate Director of the Disaster Medicine Fellowship at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
  • Amalia Voskanyan, RN –  Co-Director, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center Fellowship in Disaster Medicine
  • Alex Hart, MD – Emergency Medicine Physician, and the Director of Research for the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center Disaster Medicine Fellowship
  • Douglas Romney, MD – Director of Education for the Fellowship in Disaster Medicine, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
  • Luke Mack, MA – Quality & Research Manager, Avera eCARE
  • Kristi Sidel, RN – Director of Telemedicine Education, Avera eCARE