Sentara jumps on telehealth collaboration bandwagon

As telehealth increasingly is shown to be a reliable method of care, more and more providers are likely to jump on the bandwagon. Case in point, Norfolk, Va.-based nonprofit system Sentara Healthcare, which this week announced a new partnership with telehealth provider MDLIVE to offer round-the-clock care to its patients.

Sentara--which includes 10 acute care hospitals and three medical groups, and boasts a staff of nearly 3,700 providers--hopes the move will help to streamline appointments dealing with low-acuity ailments. Patients, according to Sentara, will be able to visit with doctors via a virtual consult platform, which also connects to pharmacies to allow for electronic prescriptions. Should the virtual provider deem a patient's illness more serious, he or she will refer that patient to a nearby urgent care facility.

Sentara CEO David Bernd says the move will bolster care for "hundreds of thousands" of patients.

Earlier this year, Danville, Pa.-based Geisinger Health Plan reported that its use of a home telemonitoring program for patients with congestive heart failure reduced admission rates by 44 percent.  

Meanwhile, so enamored with telehealth is the Department of Veterans Affairs that it announced a plan to waive co-pays on telehealth visits, hoping to make patients' homes the preferred places of care, when appropriate.

The University of South Florida also announced this year a telehealth partnership with American Well to provide care to residents at the nation's largest over-55 residential community in Orlando. USF Health hopes to reduce hospital readmissions and pharmacy costs through the collaboration.

A study published this month in the journal Telemedicine and e-Health determined that telehealth is useful in helping providers to pinpoint clinical symptoms of patients with multiple conditions like diabetes and hypertension, in between regular visits.

To learn more:
- read this Sentara announcement
- here's the Telemedicine and e-Health study abstract

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