Allegheny Health Network, an 8-hospital delivery system based in the Pittsburgh area, is working with Mercy Health System’s telehealth program—Mercy Virtual—to deliver care services across Western Pennsylvania.
At Allegheny, telehealth consultations for ICU patients will be available on a 24/7 basis to give complete coverage for all physicians, with intensivists conducting the consultations, says Chong Park, MD, chief medical officer at Mercy’s Jefferson Hospital.
“The intensivists are credentialed just like any other type of physician; they just aren’t physically in the facility,” Park adds. “They can write orders and do the same tasks as other doctors.”
“At Jefferson Hospital and at all of Allegheny’s acute care facilities, we have a talented team of critical care physicians, nurses and support staff,” Park explains. “It’s an army of people on our Mercy Virtual site monitoring all patients.”
In addition, health insurer Highmark is supporting the program, reimbursing the organization for the care given.
Jefferson Hospital will be the first to go live. In preparations, the virtual ICU program when integrated with bedside care has led to 35 percent lower mortality rates and a 30 percent cut in time spent by patients in the ICU compared to predicted lengths of stay.
The telehealth platform will support and monitor the collection of quality metrics, enabling the quality department to assess data and let physicians look at findings such as a reduction in infection length of stays.
Go-live for the program is expected late in the third quarter or early fall of 2019. But for now, a tough task to resolve will be finding enough intensivists, says Anil Singh, MD, executive medical director of clinical transformation at Highmark Health and system division director of critical care at Allegheny Health Network.
Any fear that doctors and nurses would not support 24/7 ICU consultations turned out to be unwarranted, according to Singh.
“We strategically messaged how this program will work and all participants are on the same page with one voice,” Singh says. “It just makes sense to fill in gaps in care.”
In addition to the ICU program, Allegheny Health Network also supports other telemedicine programs including psychiatry, neurology, dermatology, infectious disease, stroke, pediatrics, emergency care and neonatal care, among others.
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