Mercy, UNC Health Care partner to improve virtual health

On the heels of opening its new telemedicine facility last fall, Chesterfield, Missouri-based Mercy Virtual agreed this week to form a partnership with University of North Carolina Health Care (UNCHC) in which the two systems will remotely share resources.

To kick off the partnership, Mercy Virtual, which houses all of the health system's telehealth programs, will provide virtual monitoring of 28 intensive care unit beds at a UNCHC facility. In turn, UNCHC's clinical and research services will be accessible for use by Mercy providers.

The overall goal, Mercy Executive Medical Director Thomas Hale, M.D., Ph.D., tells FierceHealthIT, is to build patient-centric models of care that cross the full continuum of care delivery, including the ICU, acute hospital beds, emergency rooms, post-acute care spaces such as skilled nursing facilities and even the patient's home.

"Mercy Virtual is presently serving and maturing programs in all of these areas and utilizing multiple modalities, including smart devices," Hale says. "Together, UNC and Mercy will utilize their clinical and intellectual talents to continue to improve virtual care models, which will support our existing caregivers allowing for improved access to care, better outcomes and lower costs."

Mercy Virtual President Randy Moore, M.D., calls doing so a "sweet spot" for virtual care.

"What we're really trying to do with putting this consortium together is to create an accelerator, catalyze a pathway from fee-for-service to managing global risk and really delivering on Triple Aim," Moore tells FierceHealthIT.

Moore says every partner Mercy approaches must share the same philosophy and vision of creating a person patient-centric health system that wants to move toward aligned clinical and financial risk to do a much better job. According to Hale, Mercy is in multiple discussions nationally and internationally concerning similar collaborative relationships.

Moore ultimately foresees all institutions partnering with Mercy gaining access to each other's resources.

"Let's say UNC has a pediatric oncologist who has specialty expertise in a tumor that far surpasses anything else in the country; his or her services are maybe tapped into, at most, regionally," Moore says. "Wouldn't it be nice if anybody coming into a contract with the consortium could get access to specialty teams wherever they exist?"

Recent legislation proposed by Sens. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) would lift telehealth restrictions for Medicare and provide benefits for remote monitoring. The bill, according to an analysis conducted by Avalere Health, could save the government $1.8 billion over the next 10 years.

To learn more:
- here's the announcement