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Intermountain Healthcare Opens New Virtual Hospital

March 1, 2018
by Rajiv Leventhal
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The Salt Lake City, Utah-based Intermountain Healthcare has launched one of the nation’s largest virtual hospital services, bringing together 35 telehealth programs and more than 500 caregivers to enable patients to receive remote medical care, according to an announcement from the health system.

The virtual hospital, called Intermountain Connect Care Pro, provides basic medical care as well as advanced services, such as stroke evaluation, mental health counseling, intensive care, and newborn critical care. “While it doesn’t replace the need for on-site caregivers, it supplements existing staff and provides specialized services in rural communities where those types of medical care usually aren’t readily available,” officials said in the announcement.

Because the healthcare services are online and digital, Connect Care Pro isn’t located in a specific building, but provides much of the same care that you’d find in a large, medically advanced hospital.  This clinically integrated, digitally-enabled approach will aim to not only improve the quality of care in the communities served, but saves patients and clinicians time and money.

Offering an example, Intermountain officials said that an infant at a southern Utah hospital was being supported via Connect Care Pro services and received a critical care consultation that allowed the sick baby to stay in that facility instead of being transferred to a newborn intensive care unit in Salt Lake City. This single avoided transfer would have cost over $18,000 dollars. The parents of this baby were able to remain in their community, surrounded by their support system, instead of traveling what would have amounted to 400 miles and seven hours round-trip every time they wanted to see their baby. 

Using this technology to reduce the need for transfers of ill newborns to other hospitals, Intermountain lowered the cost of care for patients by more than $2.1 million over several years, the health system’s officials attested.

All Intermountain Healthcare hospitals, including 10 of Intermountain’s rural hospitals, use the offerings of the virtual hospital to supplement or add to their existing services, and nine hospitals outside the Intermountain Healthcare system have already signed up to provide high-level care and keep patients closer to home whenever possible.

One such hospital is Kane County Hospital, an independent rural facility located in Kanab, Utah.  “Our partnership with Intermountain Connect Care Pro has had a huge positive impact on our community,” said Charlene Kelly R.N., chief nursing officer at the hospital. “Kanab has had one of the highest suicide rates in the state, not including patients that come to us from our border town in Arizona, and we don’t have a crisis worker here.  Trying to place a patient who has not had a crisis evaluation was next to impossible.  With crisis care from Intermountain Healthcare, patients receive that crisis evaluation in less than an hour, and if the crisis worker recommends inpatient treatment they assist in placing the patient. Our providers just love having this service available.”

In all, Intermountain is inclusive of 22 hospitals, 180 clinics, a medical group with some 1,500 employed physicians, a health plans division called SelectHealth, and other health services.

Intermountain Connect Care Pro also plans to extend these services in the community where they can easily be accessed in underserved areas.  Discussions are underway to put patient kiosks or access devices in locations such as homeless shelters, schools, community centers, and perhaps jails, to make getting needed care more accessible.

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