Penn Medicine has created a Center for Connected Care that centralizes the health system’s telemedicine activities into the largest telehealth hub in the Philadelphia area and one of the largest of its kind in the nation.
The new center consolidates operations for Penn’s tele-homecare service for the chronically ill, a telehealth service linking obstetricians to trauma surgeons caring for critically injured pregnant women, and a tele-urgent care service, among other services.
Staffed by 50 full-time employees, the center provides support to patients 24 hours per day, seven days a week, as well as Penn clinicians located in healthcare settings throughout Delaware, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, to meet the growing demand for telemedicine services.
“Our telehealth services make it easy for patients to get the care they need where they need it,” said C. William Hanson, MD, chief medical information officer at Penn Medicine. “Telemedicine is also an important part of our health system’s strategic growth, connecting clinicians in different hospitals and ranging from real-time care of our critically ill patients to the expansion of our home care services for patients at increased risk of being readmitted to the hospital after they go home.”
Hanson notes that Penn leverages vendor telehealth technology integrated into its electronic health record system called PennChart, which is based on the Epic platform of applications, and it utilizes vendor-sourced audio and visual tools.
However, unlike many other health systems, Penn has elected to only use its own providers, “making our system home-sourced,” Hanson adds. In addition, it has developed “Penn-specific provider education on how to conduct telemedicine visits and individualized workflows for each of the many areas in which we're using this model of care.”
The healthcare organization provides telehealth specialty services in adolescent and young adult medicine, complex neurological conditions, dermatology, ophthalmology, radiology and sleep disorders. In addition, Penn offers telemedicine services for post-operative surgical visits in various specialties as well as hematology oncology consultations and veteran’s mental health.
According to Hanson, Penn has been offering telehealth services much longer than most other health systems. Nearly 15 years ago, the healthcare organization launched the Penn E-lert eICU to provide 24/7 coverage in the intensive care unit for the most vulnerable patients by leveraging two-way video and audio technology to monitor their conditions and alert on-site clinicians.
Currently, the Penn E-lert eICU covers more than 250 critical care beds across the health system, making it one of the country’s largest intensive care telemedicine programs.
“The teleICU allows us to connect to top experts without having to have a patient physically moved to another location, and the availability of tele-obstetric services is a potentially lifesaving approach that we believe is absolutely necessary for our patients,” said John Gallagher, trauma program manager for the division of Traumatology, Surgical Critical Care and Emergency Surgery at Penn Presbyterian Medical Center.
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