Washington health system launches virtual hospital to augment care in 7 facilities

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CHI Franciscan's virtual hospital is part of a growing trend in which healthcare providers are exploring remote monitoring.

A Tacoma, Washington-based health system has launched a virtual hospital where 200 doctors and nurses assist in caring for patients in surrounding communities exclusively through telemedicine.

The virtual approach developed by CHI Franciscan Health incorporates remote monitoring technology, telehealth and access to EHRs at seven different hospitals within the health system. Clinicians located in a former bank office provide a range of services from urgent care to assistance with patients in the ICU, according to The News Tribune.

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The significant resources devoted to the virtual program is unique to the region, but it’s part of a growing trend where health systems are exploring “bedless” hospitals and experimenting with remote monitoring technology.

The University of Southern California Medical Center has been exploring virtual care options for patients that need in-home care, and the Cleveland Clinic offers an extra layer of care for intensive care patients through its tele-ICU. A New York City hospital is using telehealth in its emergency room, dropping wait times by as much as 40 minutes.

Officials at CHI Franciscan said the virtual hospital allows faster access to patients when nurses are busy.

“We do have more eyes on them and can advocate for them a little bit more,” Laura Meacham, director of the CHI Franciscan hospital in Tacoma, told The News Tribune.