Mercy Starts Construction on Nation’s First Virtual Care Center
May 12, 2014
The four-story, 120,000-square-foot center will open in 2015.
Mercy officially broke ground on the first virtual care center in the U.S., marking another milestone in the health system’s promise to transform health care.
“Telemedicine lets us provide the best possible care to people where and when they need it – even when patients wouldn’t otherwise have access to specialists, such as neurologists and pediatric cardiologists,” said Lynn Britton, Mercy president and CEO. “The center will bring together the nation’s best telehealth professionals to reach more patients, develop more telemedicine services and improve how we deliver virtual care through education and innovation.”
The four-story, 120,000-square-foot center located in Chesterfield, Missouri, will open in 2015 and accommodate nearly 300 physicians, nurses, specialists, researchers and support staff. Care will be delivered 24/7 via audio, video and data connections to locations across Mercy as well as outside of Mercy through partnerships with other health care providers and large employers. Mercy estimates that the center will manage more than 3 million telehealth visits in the next five years. The center also will be a hub for advancing telemedicine through research and training.
“There’s a decreasing number of physicians in both rural and urban areas, while at the same time there’s a growing senior population that will require more care,” said Dr. Tom Hale, executive medical director of Mercy’s telehealth services. “Telemedicine will have a significant impact by letting virtual physicians and nurses be the first point of triage and care for patients in the hospital, emergency room or even at home. Mercy’s virtual care frees up physicians while also attending to patients faster than before, and our specialists bring a level of expertise that would be impossible to share without telemedicine.”
Representing an investment of approximately $50 million in development, the new facility will serve as the command center for all of Mercy’s telemedicine programs – a growing list that includes the nation’s largest single-hub electronic ICU (eICU) and features more than 75 other services, including:
SafeWatch eICU – Using in-room, two-way audio, video and computer connections, Mercy doctors and nurses provide around-the-clock monitoring of a hospital’s ICU patients. These critical-care specialists use high-tech tools to identify abnormalities, uncover potential problems and assist with care when a patient’s attending physician is not in the ICU.
Telestroke – Many community emergency rooms (ER) across the country don’t have a neurologist on hand. With Mercy’s telestroke program, patients who come to the ER with symptoms of a stroke can be seen immediately by not only an emergency room doctor, but by telestroke neurologists who are on call and available day or night via telemedicine to help diagnose the patient and order lifesaving stroke medication if necessary.
Pediatric Telecardiology – In recent years, due to the lack of technology and distance of patients to a Mercy facility, it sometimes required a week or more to get results of an echocardiogram (images of the heart). A virtual pediatric cardiology team minimizes turnaround time for patients, producing results in 24 hours or less.
Telesepsis – Mercy’s electronic health record automatically searches for more than 800 warning signs to identify patients at risk for sepsis and alerts doctors, so they can move aggressively to prevent it.
Teleradiology – A remote radiology medical team provides nonstop support to radiology groups to minimize turnaround times for patients and maximize productivity.
Telepathology – Available at all hours, an online pathology medical team can quickly provide general and specific diagnostic services.
Nurse-on-call – Experienced registered nurses provide 24/7 health advice with this nationwide telephone triage service.
Home Monitoring – Mercy provides continuous monitoring for more than 1,000 patients diagnosed with congestive heart failure, reducing hospitalization and readmissions, as well as helping them live independently for longer.
“With a decade of telemedicine experience behind us, Mercy is now a recognized leader in this vital health care field,” said Britton. “We’ve pioneered a telehealth plan that no longer limits advanced care because of age, illness or geography. We can deliver a higher level of care to more people, and the virtual care center is at the heart of it – providing care for today while also developing the health care of tomorrow.”
Media and the public were invited to virtually attend the event on Tuesday, May 13, at www.mercyvirtual.net.