Magazine article Health Facilities Management

Mercy to Expand Thriving Telehealth Program with New Virtual Care Center

Magazine article Health Facilities Management

Mercy to Expand Thriving Telehealth Program with New Virtual Care Center

Article excerpt

Mercy, Chesterfield, Mo., will take its thriving telemedicine program to an even higher level when it opens what it calls the nation's first virtual care center in 2015.

The four-story, 120,000-square-foot center will accommodate nearly 300 physicians, nurses, specialists, researchers and support staff. The $50 million facility will deliver around-the-clock care through audio, video and data connections to Mercy's remote patients in four states.

Patients of health care providers outside its system and employers who partner with Mercy also can receive care through the telemedicine program. Mercy estimates that the virtual care center will manage more than 3 million telehealth visits in the five years after it opens, which will help to overcome a decline in primary care physicians.

"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," says Tom Hale, M.D., executive medical director of telehealth services.

It's all about making health care as convenient as possible for patients, says Wendy Deibert, R.N., vice president of telehealth services.

"If we can bring care close to home, it's ideal for the patients and it's fairly easy to provide using two-way audio and video," she says. …

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