February 27, 2015 12:30 pm by Dan Verel
There’s been a flurry of news related to telemedicine this week, with several notable developments in Mississippi and Silicon Valley.

One of the more interesting aspects of telemedicine is that much of the innovation and focus of late has come from startups and vendors, while health systems have shown a bit of reluctance to deploy it on their own.

To be fair, it’s a significant undertaking for big systems who can’t always pivot at a moment’s notice. But there are some notable exceptions.

Here’s a snapshot of hospitals that have been stepping up and making the best use of telemedicine (in no particular order):

University of Mississippi Medical Center

1. University of Mississippi Medical Center.

As the only academic medical center in a state that is contending with some of the most difficult healthcare challenges, the recent news of its telehealth expansion is no small deal. A new Center for Telehealth will connect the hospital to some 165 sites, including other hospitals, clinics, places of employment and schools.

It’s part of a broader trend in the Magnolia State, which has emerged as a leader in policy and implementation of telehealth that can help address major barriers of access in the rural state. And UMMC is at the center of that development, while other states take notice.

Avera Health’s Prairie Hospital in South Dakota

2. Avera Health.

The South Dakota-based health system has a sizable presence, with 31 hospitals. Yet its telemedicine operations, known as eCare, is thought to be the biggest and most comprehensive in the world, covering an area the size of France and Germany combined. That includes eight states, some of them among the most remote and rural in the country: South Dakota, North Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, Wyoming and Montana.

Its telemedicine services run the entire healthcare gambit, including eICU, eEmergency, ePharmacy, eConsults for specialty care and eLTC, or long-term care. The latter two are likely to be expanded, and Avera intends on making its service more broad for primary care and direct-to-consumer.

Geisinger Health System in Pennsylvania

3. Geisinger Health System.

The Pennsylvania-based system was among the early adopters of telehealth. In 2012, it found the technology cut its readmission rates by an eye-opening 44 percent.

Geisinger focused strongly on a teleICU, which is among the most expensive areas of healthcare. With so much emphasis being placed on preventable readmissions, health systems ought to take that sort of reduction seriously. Geisinger likewise found that telemonitoring for heart failure patients, it saved about $216, or 11 percent, per patient per month.

Mercy Health hospital in St. Louis.

4. Mercy Health.

The St. Louis-based system constructed a telehealth facility in May of last year, investing $50 million into the effort. The center houses about 300 physicians, nurses, specialists, researchers and support staff for 24/7 audio and video services. Mercy estimates the center will manage more than 3 million telehealth visits in the first five years.

Like Avera, Mercy’s telemedicine efforts are robust and cut across eight different areas of complex care. That includes the TeleICU, TeleStroke, Pediatric Telecardiology, TeleSepsis, Teleradiology, Telepathology, Nurse-on-call and home monitoring.

Given Mercy’s sizable presence with 33 hospitals in four states, the offerings have the potential for real impact. The TeleStroke service alone is already in some 26 hospitals.

University of Pittsburgh Medical Center

5.University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

The health system is moving quickly to keep pace with the increasing demand in telemedicine, having increased the number of patient visits by 49 percent over a 12-month period in 2013. It totaled 10,000 telemedicine visits while significantly reducing readmission rates.

UPMC, like Geisinger, saw marked progress with heart failure patients, for whom readmission rates were reduced to 5 percent when paired with visiting nurse care and telemonitoring, compared to 28 percent without the monitoring.

There are undoubtedly more systems and this list is by no means comprehensive, so let us know about any others that warrant a mention

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