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AHN Partners with Mercy Virtual to Enhance Critical Care Services at Community Hospitals through Innovative Telemedicine Program

Thursday, June 20, 2019

AHN’s Allegheny Valley, Canonsburg, Jefferson and Saint Vincent Hospitals will be first to implement virtual intensive care solution to help treat more critically ill patients close to home 

PITTSBURGH – Allegheny Health Network (AHN) and Highmark Health announced today a unique partnership with Mercy Virtual to establish an innovative telehealth model that will enhance the delivery of critical care services in communities across western Pennsylvania.

A subsidiary of the St. Louis-based health system Mercy, Mercy Virtual is a nationally recognized leader in the development and delivery of telehealth solutions to hospitals around the country.

Through state-of-the-art telecommunication and remote patient monitoring technology located in each ICU room at AHN’s Allegheny Valley, Canonsburg, Jefferson and Saint Vincent Hospitals, board-certified intensivists based at Mercy’s Virtual Care Center will seamlessly interact and collaborate with AHN clinical staff to provide an additional layer of 24/7 ICU patient care support.

Patient vital signs are continuously monitored by Mercy Virtual clinicians via secure, encrypted connections, while the program’s two way high-definition cameras are only activated during patient observations by the Mercy Virtual clinicians and during their engagement with the onsite clinical teams.    

“In Mercy Virtual, we are partnering with the industry’s premier provider of telehealth services to further strengthen the quality, scope and value of the critical care that we provide to patients at our community hospitals,” said Anil Singh, MD, MPH, MMM, FCCP, Executive Medical Director of Clinical Transformation at Highmark Health and System Division Director of Critical Care at AHN. “Mercy Virtual and its medical staff have an impressive track record of success in helping hospitals deliver outstanding critical care service to patients, and we look forward to the positive impact this new virtual ICU model will have on the populations we serve.”  

Mercy Virtual’s virtual ICU (vICU) program, when integrated with bedside care, has led to 35 percent lower mortality rates and a 30 percent reduction in time spent in the ICU compared to predicted length of stay, according to Vance Moore, President, Mercy Virtual – Business Integration.

“We are excited to enter into a deeper relationship with another organization that has the same passion to serve in creative and intentional ways. The combination of a collaborative relationship including a payer, provider and virtual care organization offers the unique ability to both improve care and reduce cost in an aligned fashion,” said Moore.

AHN will progressively implement the vICU program at its four community hospitals over the next 12 months, beginning with Jefferson Hospital in the fall of 2019. Jefferson will also serve as a program training site for subsequent hospitals coming on board.

“At Jefferson Hospital, and at all of AHN’s acute care facilities, we have a very talented team of critical care physicians, nurses and support staff,” said Chong Park, MD, Jefferson’s Chief Medical Officer. “The additional depth of clinical expertise and patient care resources that the Mercy Virtual program brings to our organization takes those existing capabilities to a higher level and should provide our patients and their families with even greater peace of mind about the specialized care we offer.”

Virtual ICU collaboration is just the latest component of AHN’s growing portfolio of telehealth services as the network and Highmark Health continue to focus on providing the region with more patient-centered, value-driven health care options. Telemedicine is also being leveraged by AHN to provide greater access in the community to its specialized services, such as psychiatry, neurology, dermatology, infectious disease, neonatal care, and more.

“Over the last several years, telemedicine has been a key component of our strategy for getting health care right and providing the best possible experiences for our patients and their families. Mercy Virtual has created an extraordinary model that we are excited to implement to provide critically ill patients with high-quality care, from the comfort and convenience of the hospital that is closest to home,” said Cynthia Hundorfean, President and CEO, AHN. 

AHN joins leading health institution Penn State Health, among others, in partnering with Mercy Virtual. In total, the Virtual Care Center’s more than 300 clinicians provide services to more than 40 hospitals. In addition to vICU, the Center provides telehealth services for stroke, pediatrics and emergency care, among other solutions.

“Partnering with like-minded providers who are interested in creating a team-based approach to delivering the right level of care, driven by evidence-based medicine, in a proactive, patient-centric manner is what our leaders envisioned over a decade ago when they first invested in virtual care. It is our great fortune to bring that to reality,” said J. Gavin Helton, MD, President, Mercy Virtual – Clinical Integration.

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About Mercy Virtual

Mercy Virtual delivers virtual care services to 600,000 patients across six states, improving patient outcomes and access, while reducing total cost of care. Often called a “hospital without beds,” Mercy Virtual Care Center operates 24 hours a day and is staffed with more than 300 clinicians. Mercy, named one of the top five large U.S. health systems from 2016 to 2019 by IBM Watson Health, serves millions annually. Mercy includes more than 40 acute care, managed and specialty (heart, children’s, orthopedic and rehab) hospitals, 900 physician practices and outpatient facilities, 45,000 co-workers and 2,400 Mercy Clinic physicians in Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma. Mercy also has clinics, outpatient services and outreach ministries in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas. In addition, Mercy's IT division, Mercy Technology Services, supply chain organization, ROi, and Mercy Virtual commercially serve providers and patients in more than 20 states coast to coast.