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Mercy to Create ‘Virtual Care Center’

May 12, 2014
by David Raths
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St. Louis-based health system expects more than 3 million telehealth visits in the next five years

On Tuesday, May 13, Mercy will break ground on what it calls the first U.S. “virtual care center.” The St. Louis-based Catholic health system estimates that the center will manage more than 3 million telehealth visits in the next five years.

Located in Chesterfield, Missouri, the four-story, 120,000-square-foot center 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 providers and large employers, according to a Mercy media release.

“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 Tom Hale, M.D., executive medical director of Mercy’s telehealth services, in a prepared statement. “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 is the sixth-largest Catholic health care system in the United States and includes 32 acute-care hospitals, four heart hospitals, two children’s hospitals, three rehab hospitals, one orthopedic hospital, and 700 outpatient facilities in Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma.

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 list that includes the nation’s largest single-hub electronic ICU and more than 75 other services, including telestroke, pediatric telecardiology and teleradiology. Mercy also provides continuous home 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.