Utah’s Intermountain Healthcare has launched what it contends is one of the nation’s largest telehealth programs to help rural hospitals provide medical care to underserved communities, offering advanced telemedicine services such as stroke evaluation, mental health counseling, and intensive and newborn critical care.

Called Intermountain Connect Care Pro, the virtual service combines 35 telehealth programs and more than 500 caregivers in an effort to supplement existing medical capabilities at rural hospitals that have not had access to specialized care for their patients.

Intermountain Healthcare

Currently, all 22 of Intermountain’s facilities—including 10 rural hospitals—are leveraging the service. In addition, nine hospitals outside of the not-for-profit healthcare system are utilizing the clinically integrated, digitally enabled approach to providing high-quality care to underserved patients.

“Our partnership with Intermountain Connect Care Pro has had a huge positive impact on our community,” said Charlene Kelly, chief nursing officer at Kane County Hospital, an independent rural facility located in Kanab, Utah. “Kanab has had one of the highest suicide rates in the state, not including patients that come to us from our border town in Arizona, and we don’t have a crisis worker here. Trying to place a patient who has not had a crisis evaluation was next to impossible. With crisis care from Intermountain Healthcare, patients receive that crisis evaluation in less than an hour, and if the crisis worker recommends inpatient treatment, they assist in placing the patient.”

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One of the major benefits of Connect Care Pro is that the service enables patients to receive healthcare services at their local medical facilities so they can stay closer to home—and, in the process, save time and money.

According to Intermountain , a sick baby at a southern Utah hospital was supported through Connect Care Pro services and received a critical care consultation that enabled the infant to stay in that facility instead of being transferred to a newborn intensive care unit in Salt Lake City. As a result, $18,000 in transfer costs were avoided, and the baby’s parents were able to remain in their local community, saving them from having to travel 400 miles and seven hours round trip each time they wanted to see their baby.

Intermountain has long used telehealth to increase patient access to services in rural Utah. In fact, by leveraging telehealth technology to reduce the need for transfers of sick newborns to other hospitals, the healthcare organization contends that it has lowered the cost of care for patients by more than $2.1 million over several years.

Going forward, Intermountain wants to extend Connect Care Pro services to underserved communities where they can be easily accessed. Among the options being considered are patient kiosks or access devices in locations such as homeless shelters, schools, community centers and even jails.

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