Four-story 120,000-square-foot building will be first in the nation dedicated to telemedicine and remote monitoring programs, says Mercy Health.
Healthcare Social Networks: New Choices For Doctors, Patients
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Having rapidly grown its family of telemedicine services over the last eight years, Mercy Health is breaking ground on what it calls the first dedicated Virtual Care Center in the US, a $50 million building scheduled to open in 2015 where 300 doctors, nurses, specialists, and support staff will work solely on remote patient care.
Mercy estimates that the center will manage more than 3 million telehealth visits during the next five years, with a broad, possibly international geographic reach. A ground-breaking ceremony was held Tuesday for the four-story, 120,000-square-foot center in Chesterfield, Mo. The center will help Mercy expand the family of services that started in 2006 with the SafeWatch remote-monitoring service for intensive care units. Intensive care doctors, known as intensivists, are in short supply, but through video consultation, those on staff at the Mercy St. Louis hospital can make their expertise more broadly available. Nurses and other specialists provide additional remote support.
"We are the back-end support for bedside care," says Wendy Deibert, a senior member of the nursing staff who was one of the original members of the SafeWatch team. She now serves as vice president of Mercy Telehealth Services.
With access to a remote hospital's electronic health records system and monitoring devices at the bedside, "we're able to be the data miners and trenders [as to what is] going on," she tells us. Onsite nurses are needed as much as ever to attend to a patient's immediate physical needs, like assisting someone who needs help getting up to go to the bathroom. However, telemedicine gives onsite caregivers access to expertise they would not have otherwise, particularly in rural hospitals.
Dr. Sangita Aradhyula and Dr. Ashok Palagiri monitor a patient hundreds of miles away at Mercy SafeWatch in St. Louis, the nation's largest single-hub electronic intensive care unit. (Source: Mercy Health)
The same principle extends beyond the ICU. For example, Mercy's Telestroke service makes a neurologist available to quickly assess the condition of a patient in a remote emergency room to determine whether that person has suffered a stroke and, if so, order the appropriate treatment. With a device such as an iPad, the physician can perform the diagnosis from home or the office, without necessarily having to come into the hospital.
Receiving a stroke diagnosis quickly, even if no local neurologist is available to make it, is critical because studies have shown stroke survival and recovery improve dramatically if a diagnosis is made within three to four hours. With a high-resolution video and access to the EHR, a doctor can see the dilation of the patient's eyes, review vital statistics, and make the right judgment --
David F. Carr oversees InformationWeek's coverage of government and healthcare IT. He previously led coverage of social business and education technologies and continues to contribute in those areas. He is the editor of Social Collaboration for Dummies (Wiley, Oct. 2013) and ... View Full Bio