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Need to prepare learners for the brave new telehealth world they will practice in: Ryan Palmer

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Ryan Palmer, EdD, MFA, Principal Kennedy and Company, US

There has been an explosive rise in telehealth fuelled by the global pandemic. McKinsey & Co. in June concluded that 46 per cent of consumers in the US were using telemedicine, up from 11 per cent a year earlier.1

Changes in Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) reimbursements mean telehealth expansion is here to stay. CMS recently announced 11 new Medicare reimbursable telehealth services, bringing total to 144.2

Telehealth, long considered a future practice model, has almost overnight become a current practice mode. This rapid change compels health care training programs to adjust their curricula quickly so as to help produce graduates who are ready to deliver patient centered care using telehealth technology. Few medical schools currently have these telehealth curricula in place, and organisations like the AAMC have stepped in to help make curricular innovations around telehealth available to help institutions adjust.

Institutions will need more than just piecemeal approaches to telehealth, however, and need to build systematic approaches to curriculum, assessment and learner competencies around telehealth- and quickly. The AAMC’s soon to be published telehealth competencies will be of great assistance to institutions looking to define what competencies their learners should master for telehealth prior to graduation. These competencies were systematically developed by telehealth experts and medical educators, and the list was vetted by over 210 stakeholders during its development.

The result is a comprehensive set of competencies that health training programs can adopt immediately and begin to build curriculum and assessments around. These competencies are also three tiers, covering medical student, residents and practitioner competencies. Most importantly, they are comprehensive and broad, making them adaptable to other healthcare professions training programs and international training programs as well. It will be important for all health care education programs in 2021 to decide how they are going to prepare their learners for the brave new telehealth world they will practice in.


  1. Cortez M. Telemedicine. Published September 12, 2020. Accessed September 14, 2020.
  2. CMS will reimburse for 11 new telehealth services during the public health emergency. Healthcare Finance News. Accessed October 21, 2020.
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