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Penn Medicine Opens Up Telehealth Hub

February 16, 2018
by Rajiv Leventhal
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Philadelphia-based Penn Medicine has opened its Center for Connected Care to centralize the health system’s telemedicine activities.

According to officials in an announcement this week, “Connected Care telemedicine programs use advanced approaches and technologies to serve a wide variety of patient populations without having to travel to Philadelphia.” This includes Penn Medicine’s almost 15-year-old Penn E-lert eICU for the critically ill, a tele-homecare service for the chronically ill, as well as a telemedicine service linking obstetricians to trauma surgeons caring for critically injured pregnant women, and a tele-urgent care service which eliminates the need for physical visits in some cases.

The Center for Connected Care also houses the Home Telehealth program, which provides post-hospitalization remote monitoring for more than 160 patients each month in their homes. Often, this work employs a concept known as “automated hovering,” which combines new technologies such as wireless devices that can track patients’ vital signs and other indicators with new reimbursement strategies that hold providers more accountable for keeping recently hospitalized patients from being readmitted. Penn Medicine officials note that this program has successfully reduced readmissions by 35 percent in a medically complex patient population.

Penn Medicine was one of the first healthcare systems to invest in telemedicine when the Penn E-lert eICU was first launched. The unit provides 24/7 coverage by using two-way video and audio technology to monitor patients who are, for instance, at risk of falls or sepsis, and alerts for on-site providers to act fast when help is needed. Now, the service covers more than 250 critical care beds across the health system.

In sum, the center looks to address the ever-growing demand for telehealth services. Located at Penn Medicine Rittenhouse in center city Philadelphia, it is the largest telehealth center in the region and one of the largest telehealth hubs in the country, officials attest. The center will have 50 full-time employees who will work to support patients 24/7 as well other Penn Medicine staff in a variety of settings across Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware.

What’s more, Penn Medicine also provides tele-medical specialty services in fields such as transplant services, dermatology, ophthalmology, radiology, adolescent and young adult medicine, sleep medicine, and complex neurological conditions to patients at a regional, national, and international level. Other tele-medical specialty services include post-operative surgical visits in various specialties as well as hematology oncology consultations and veteran’s mental health services.

And, an additional suite of programs provide specialized, academic medical center-based services to patients who live outside Penn Medicine’s typical service region. For example, a tele-genetics program through Penn’s Abramson Cancer Center provides genetic counseling for patients living with or at-risk of inherited conditions via remote video conferencing.

“Patients today increasingly expect to engage with healthcare providers with the same clickable convenience as buying holiday gifts online or ordering a ride-sharing service from their phone,” Penn Medicine’s CMIO, C. William Hanson, III, M.D., said in a statement.

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