Providence St. Joseph Health is rolling out one of the country’s largest telehealth networks that will offer more than 50 specialty services at more than 100 locations across the West Coast.
The Washington-based health system announced the new Virtual Health System on Monday at the American Telemedicine Conference in Chicago. The program features more than 1,500 dedicated clinicians, allowing patients to receive after-hours hospital care at locations throughout the Western U.S., including acute stroke care, psychiatric care and on-demand, direct-to-consumer urgent care.
The new network aims to solve access issues for rural communities, reduce emergency department overcrowding and provide stroke patients with necessary care in a timely manner.
“Providence St. Joseph Health is leading the way to meet the needs of consumers, physicians and communities by growing multistate telehealth programs that give all of us the tools to thrive locally in the 21st century,” Amy Compton-Phillips, M.D., chief clinical officer at Providence St. Joseph Health, said in a statement. “We know that people usually prefer to get care close to home. Physicians and specialists want to preserve relationships with their patients and communities want their local healthcare infrastructure to survive in a world of rapid change. PSJH Virtual Health System acts as a health connector.”
As part of the virtual network, patients can access services through a Patient Engagement Center, an existing tool that has been well-received by patients that have used it, said Todd Czartoski, M.D., chief medical technology officer at the health system.
The announcement comes as health systems are taking steps to formally integrate telehealth into their continuum of care. In February, Penn Medicine launched its Center for Connected Care featuring 50 full-time employees and 24/7 care. Last month, Intermountain also expanded its telehealth program to incorporate 35 programs and more than 500 caregivers.
While reimbursement is slowly catching up to the technology, large health systems increasingly see programs as a competitive advantage. At the same time, 41% of industry leaders say telehealth will see rapid growth over the next year, according to a survey by Venrock. Bob Kocher, M.D., a partner at Venrock, which invests in Doctor on Demand, told FierceHealthcare telehealth’s newfound prominence has been a long time coming.
“Telemedicine is a way to offer access to healthcare that is much cheaper and much faster,” he said.