UPMC spinoff Curavi acquires TripleCare, boosting telehealth offerings

The move comes as the AMA has published new data about how many physicians are actually using telemedicine technology.
By Mike Miliard
03:30 PM
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Curavi Health, a UPMC Enterprises company, has acquired TripleCare, which develops telemedicine services for post-acute and long-term care such as skilled nursing facilities.

The addition broadens Curavi's ability to deliver remote care for its geriatric and other patients – it will now serve nearly 100 provider sites across 14 states. Terms of the deal were not disclosed

WHY IT MATTERS
TripleCare's platform enables post-acute SNFs and nursing homes to access physicians on weekends, overnight and on holidays, enabling residents to be treated in place, rather than expensive and potentially risky transfers to the ED or hospital.

Curavi, launched years ago based on research developed by UPMC geriatricians, is part of UPMC Enterprises, the commercialization and innovation arm of the Pittsburgh health system. It offers general and specialty care, after-hours coverage, geriatric psychiatry consultation. Its technology is designed with the workflows of nursing homes in mind

"By combining the strengths of these two telemedicine leaders in the post-acute care industry, the facilities and residents we serve will have access to the highest-quality care and most innovative telemedicine technology," said Alissa Meade, who will continue Curavi's CEO, while TripleCare's interim CEO, Dr. Mary Jo Gorman, M.D., will assume a newly established seat on Curavi's board of directors.

THE LARGER TREND
The telemedicine acquisition comes just as the American Medical Association has published what it says it the first nationwide estimates on how many physicians actually use telemedicine and how it helps their practices. There's been much discussion about how virtual care and remote monitoring seem finally be gaining traction after years of stalled promise, but these are some of the first numbers about how widely it's being put to work.

The study, published in the December issue of Health Affairs, offers several interesting points about overall and specialty use of telehealth technology. According to AMA researchers:

  • Fifteen percent of physicians worked in practices that used telemedicine for patient interactions (diagnosis, treatment) following up with patients, or managing those with chronic conditions.
  • Eleven percent of physicians worked in practices that used telehealth technology for interactions with other healthcare professionals (specialty consultants or second opinions, for instance).
  • Among specialists, radiologists (39.5 percent), psychiatrists (27.8 percent) and cardiologists (24.1 percent) had the highest use of telemedicine for patient care.
  • Emergency medicine physicians (38.8 percent), pathologists (30.4 percent)  and radiologists (25.5 percent) had the highest use of the technology for interactions with other providers.
  • Videoconferencing was the telemedicine modality with the most widespread use, leveraged in the practices of 12.6 percent of physicians. It was most common among emergency medicine physicians (31.6 percent), psychiatrists (25.8) and pathologists (24.1 percent).
  • Store and forward of patient data for analysis and diagnosis was used in the practices of 9.4 percent of physicians. That approach to patient data was most common among radiologists (42.7 percent), pathologists (22.7 percent) and cardiologists (14.9 percent).
  • Remote patient monitoring was used in the practices of 7.3 percent of physicians – most common among cardiologists (17.9 percent), nephrologists (15.4 percent) and neurologists (12.8 percent).

The AMA study noted that physicians in smaller medical practices and physician-owned medical practices had a lower rate of telemedicine use than physicians in larger medical practices and ones that were not physician-owned.

ON THE RECORD
"While regulatory and legislative changes have been implemented to encourage the use of telemedicine, there are no nationally representative estimates on its use by physicians across all medical specialties," said Carol K. Kane, study co-author and AMA director of economic and health policy research.

According the brief in Health Affairs, "in 2016, 15.4 percent of physicians worked in practices that used telemedicine for a wide spectrum of patient interactions, including e-visits as well as diagnoses made by radiologists who used telemedicine to store and forward data.

"In the same year, 11.2 percent of physicians worked in practices that used telemedicine for interactions between physicians and health care professionals," researchers said. "We found that in addition to specialty, larger practice size was an important correlate of telemedicine use. This suggests that despite regulatory and legislative changes to encourage the use of telemedicine, the financial burden of implementing it may be a continuing barrier for small practices."

Twitter: @MikeMiliardHITN
Email the writer: mike.miliard@himssmedia.com

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