University of North Carolina Health Care (UNCHC) has signed a partnership agreement with Mercy Virtual that will align the two to benefit patients and medical staff of both systems.
Initially, Mercy will virtually monitor patients in 28 intensive care unit (ICU) beds for one of UNCHC’s hospitals. The partnership will expand over time to include additional facilities and programs.
“This isn’t just about purchasing telemedicine services; we have been practicing telemedicine for several years,” said Dr. Alan Stiles, UNCHC’s senior vice president of network development and strategic affiliation. “We were looking for a way to accelerate the development of a broader array of virtual services for our patients and medical staff. Working in tandem with Mercy Virtual, we believe we can transform health care.”
Mercy Virtual echoed how this relationship is a game-changer in the health care world.
“Virtual care provides patients with earlier access to necessary health care and breaks down walls between health care systems,” said Dr. Randy Moore, president of Mercy Virtual. “Every institution and system across the nation has areas of expertise, and this partnership allows Mercy and UNCHC to bring the best of both organizations to the table to benefit our patients. If we have a one-direction relationship, we miss out on what we or someone else does better than anyone else.”
Beyond elevating quality, access and efficiency for patients served by UNCHC, Mercy and other Mercy Virtual partners, UNCHC will leverage Mercy’s decade of telemedicine experience. Likewise, Mercy will benefit from UNCHC’s medical research experience and a sophisticated delivery network of clinical expertise.
“We speed up the benefits to patients by tapping into each other’s experience,” said Moore. “Mercy is building on years of innovations and learnings so UNCHC’s virtual journey to where we are today will be greatly expedited. Our shared experiences will reduce implementation time, costs and risks.”
Last fall, Mercy opened its Virtual Care Center, the only center of its kind, in St. Louis, Missouri. Dedicated entirely to care outside its own walls, it is the cornerstone of Mercy’s virtual care program. In the past 10 years, Mercy has become a national leader in remote delivery of health care services, monitoring patients using high-speed data and video connections.
The new building is the nerve center for Mercy’s existing telemedicine programs, including:
- SafeWatch Critical Care – Launched in 2006, it’s the largest single-hub electronic ICU in the nation. Doctors and nurses monitor patients by working virtually side by side with bedside caregivers in 32 ICUs across six states. ICUs using SafeWatch have seen a 35 percent reduction in how long patients stay in the hospital, as well as 30 percent fewer deaths.
- SafeWatch Stroke – Many emergency rooms across the country don’t have an on-site neurologist. With Mercy’s telestroke program, patients who visit the ER with symptoms of a stroke can be seen immediately by a neurologist via high-speed video and data connections. Earlier care can result in partial or complete reversal of the disability caused by strokes.
- SafeWatch Hospitalists – A team of doctors is dedicated to seeing patients within the hospital around the clock, using virtual care technology. They evaluate patients and order tests or therapies when a local doctor may not be available, resulting in quicker care.
- In-Home Monitoring – A pilot program in which an internal medicine doctor and team provide around-the-clock monitoring and care of high-risk patients at home to keep them healthier and out of the hospital.
“This is the future of health care,” said Moore. “Health care providers are charged with providing better quality and higher value to more people. By forming partnerships without walls, we can evolve health care to a new place. Our collaboration with UNCHC will bring better care to patients everywhere.”