St. Louis virtual care center to expand telehealth, jobs

Rendering of the virtual care center at night, courtesy of Mercy

Mercy, the eighth largest Catholic healthcare system in the U.S., announced plans this week to build a virtual care center in Chesterfield, Mo., billed as "the first of its kind in the country."

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The new facility is part of $4.6 billion in healthcare investments that the system plans to make across the state in the next eight years.

Mercy President and CEO Lynn Britton announced the plans to more than 150 invited guests, including Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon, at an Oct. 11 community meeting. The long-term investments to meeting community health needs include $2.4 billion in the St. Louis area.

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The meeting was a follow-up to a series of 28 community roundtables held across Mercy in 2010, where area leaders discussed community health needs and offered their ideas as part of a year-long planning process. Britton noted that several key themes emerged that impacted the development of community master plans across Mercy.

“While every community we serve is unique, there was a common thread in the themes from each community roundtable,” said Britton. “Participants expressed the need for health and wellness education for children, a desire for more physicians – particularly in rural communities, and an overall request to make healthcare easier – both in access and cost. We believe our resulting community master plans address the key issues that community members raised, and we are excited to begin implementing our plans not only in St. Louis but across all of the communities we serve.”

Technology was a major focus of Britton’s announcements, including a pilot project for eVisits and the expansion of stroke care through an electronic intensive care monitoring system. The new telestroke program will enable patients across Missouri to access the same standard of stroke care that patients receive at Mercy’s certified stroke center in St. Louis, he said.

Britton expects that the virtual care center, which will expand Mercy’s telemedicine capabilities to outlying care centers across a four-state region, will add 300 to 400 professional-level jobs to the local economy.

 

Currently, Mercy’s intensive care unit (ICU) telemedicine program, Mercy SafeWatch, allows a team of highly trained intensivists and critical care nurses to provide virtual care to more than 400 patients across the Midwest. The development of the virtual care center will enable the extension of Mercy SafeWatch to additional ICUs and into other care sites such as emergency departments, said Britton.

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