Penn Medicine launches new telehealth hub as interest in virtual services mounts nationwide

Businessman video-chats with doctor on laptop
The newly launched Center for Connected Health will include ICU, urgent care and posthospital services. (Getty/AndreyPopov)

Building on longstanding efforts to integrate virtual care into the ICU, Penn Medicine has launched the Center for Connected Care, which will count itself among the largest telehealth hubs in the country.

Featuring 50 full-time employees and offering 24/7 care, the new center houses the system’s 15-year-old e-ICU, virtual urgent care services, a telehealth program design to treat chronically ill patients at home and a service that links obstetricians to trauma surgeons for critically injured pregnant women. The center will be the largest telehealth hub in the region, the health system said in an announcement.

“Patients today increasingly expect to engage with healthcare providers with the same clickable convenience as buying holiday gifts online or ordering a ride-sharing service from their phone,” Penn Medicine’s Chief Medical Information Officer C. William Hanson, III, M.D., said in the release, adding that telemedicine is part of the system’s strategic growth. “Our telehealth services make it easy for patients to get the care they need where they need it.”

The new center pulls together established programs like the e-ICU, with a newer home telehealth initiative that can provide posthospitalization remote monitoring for 160 patients each. That program has reduced readmissions by 35%.

The announcement comes nearly a year after another large Pennsylvania provider—the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center—rolled out emergency telemedicine services across the state.

It also coincides with a broader emphasis on telemedicine and virtual care across the country. According to a survey of healthcare executives released this week by Sage Growth Partners, 56% said they have already implemented telemedicine. Of the 44% that had not adopted the technology, 86% said it was a medium to high priority.  

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Budgets are increasing as a result, according to the survey. Although two-thirds of respondents said their telemedicine budget is less than $250,000, nearly three-quarters of executives expect to see an increase in the coming year.

In other industry news, the American Telemedicine Association has appointed Ann Mond Johnson as its new CEO following the departure of Jonathan Linkous last summer. Johnson, a long time digital health entrepreneur, will be tasked with expanding the reach of telemedicine by forming new strategic partnerships with providers and technology firms, ATA said in an announcement.