- Providence St. Joseph Health debuted its Virtual Health System, providing acute stroke care, mental health, direct-to-consumer and after-hours hospital care to more than 100 facilities in western U.S. states.
- Among the program’s features are 24/7 access to stroke specialists with an average response time under three minutes, round-the-clock access to board-certified psychiatrists to diagnose and start treating patients and a patient engagement center that connects patients to doctors, classes, feedback channels and more.
- The new telehealth system, launched at ATA18, also provides same-day virtual and in-person appointments through PSJH’s Express Care on-demand, direct-to-consumer offering in California, Montana, Oregon and Washington.
A growing number of health systems are offering telehealth programs as a way to increase access, lower costs and generate revenue as newer reimbursement models push patients to outpatient settings.
Last month, Intermountain Healthcare launched a “virtual hospital” to speed its transition to digital health and help it tackle population health issues. Called Connect Care Pro, the program offers basic medical care as well as stroke evaluation, mental health counseling, intensive care and neonatal intensive care.
In a Foley & Lardner survey released last fall, three-fourths of healthcare organizations said they either offered or planned to offer telehealth services by the end of 2017. More than eight in 10 said telehealth was driving expansion of other digital health services, such as mobile health apps and remote patient monitoring.
Telehealth has proven to be useful in a number of use cases and situations requiring alternate means of connecting with healthcare. The service played a major role in delivering care during and after Hurricanes Harvey and Irma and again during the recent severe flu season. And a study of telehealth use in rural hospitals found patient were seen six times faster when the emergency department offered the option versus when it did not.
Whether telehealth will transform healthcare delivery on a major scale or mostly intervene in use cases like flu outbreaks remains to be seen.
Intermountain CEO Marc Harrison is bullish on the prospects. “I think this is the wave of the future,” he told Healthcare Dive in a recent interview. He noted many rural hospitals are struggling to stay afloat and virtual services offer a path to a more financially sustainable future.