Investing in Telemedicine
Hale says that in addition to the many telemedicine services Mercy provides, even more are being piloted.
"Our biggest effort is with pediatric psychiatry," says Hale. He illustrates his point: "We have a pediatric psychiatrist out of Springfield. There is a family who takes care of seven foster children, and all seven kids had to be treated. It was a two-day event to care for all seven foster kids. Can you imagine?"
Those kids, says Hale, can now be treated over the course of hours, not days. That access to care, at the right place, and the right time, is why telemedicine holds so much promise.
Mercy's virtual care center is scheduled to be complete in 2015 and to be able to house 300 physicians, nurses, specialists, and IT staff. From the virtual care center, which hale calls the "brain" of Mercy's telemedicine operations, clinical staff will be able to extend care to patients 24/7 through audio, video, and data connections across all of the organization's locations.
Telemedicine is one of the fastest growing segments of patient care. It is especially good for connecting physicians to care for patients in rural areas, where there are shortages of nearly every specialty, including primary care physicians. It also helps to alleviate shortages of specialists, no matter where patients live.