Once again, Mercy’s new Virtual Care Center is center stage – virtually. This time, HealthLeaders Media streamed a live webcast, “Telemedicine: Health Care’s Nerve Center,” from inside the 125,000-square-foot facility.
Simply put, “virtual care enables us to bring care to the patient rather than the patient coming to you for care,” said Dr. Randy Moore, Mercy Virtual president, setting the tone for the three-hour, streamed event that focused on virtual care strategy, organizational change and accelerating a return on investment.
“It’s not technology; it’s a person-to-person relationship that the technology is facilitating,” added Dr. Hale, executive medical director of Mercy Virtual.
“When people think about telemedicine, they think about technology, but technology is a small part of the solution,” said Dr. Chris Veremakis, Mercy Virtual medical director of SafeWatch-inpatient services. “While it may only be 15 percent, it’s still absolutely critical. The other 85 percent is about people, the process and culture.”
Drs. Moore, Hale and Veremakis were joined on stage by Dr. J. Gavin Helton, Mercy Virtual medical director of ambulatory medicine, and Janet Pursley, vice president of care management.
“We’re all on a journey to change the care model and make health care better and lower costs,” Dr. Hale continued. “We started with innovation and an innovative center. We’ve moved to telemedicine and now virtual care. We realize it’s a compilation of aspects, especially with our caregivers, because this is an augmentation of care – not a replacement of care.”
With that care, Mercy Virtual has helped the health system reduce mortality rates for the sickest sepsis patients from 35 percent to 18 percent.
“We wanted to bring more data to the bedside, but all you do is inundate the person who already has too much to do,” Dr. Veremakis said. “By centralizing data collection with specialists, they are able to eliminate the noise and determine the early warning signs. Then they are able to alert the bedside when we have actionable information.”
“More than a thousand people a year are going home who otherwise wouldn’t have,” Dr. Moore added. “Each one of those statistics represents a person – someone’s mom, grandmother or grandchild. Virtual care is integrated into the entire solution.”
In ambulatory medicine, “developing relationships with patients and primary care physicians has been key,” Dr. Helton said. “Our program has been successful. We’re part of the Mercy team and part of the care team and we’ve had tremendous response.”
That includes home monitoring, where Mercy Virtual provides continuous monitoring for hundreds of chronically ill patients in their homes after hospitalization.
“Our first patient is an 87-year-old with congestive heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), lung and colon cancer, as well as chronic kidney disease. Her one goal is to remain at home and live independently,” Dr. Helton added. “She’s able to go to her bingo on Tuesday nights, and different events at her church. She was initially reluctant about using an iPad, but now she’s comfortable receiving messages from us on an iPad, with real-time video encounters at her home.”
Dr. Veremakis admitted, “In 2005, when we started, I was a doubter. I said, ‘You can’t take care of critically ill patients from 250 miles away.’ I was a bedside doctor and thought you had to have a physician and critical care team in the ICU around the clock…but then a light bulb went off. We’ve humanized the entire experience.”
“We really are living in a culture that has seized that video visit as a relationship,” Dr. Hale said. “Patients love it.”
To learn more about Mercy Virtual, click here.