St. Luke’s Virtual Care Center is one of the most exciting developments for patients served by St. Luke’s since I have been here. We have piloted components of the center including teleICU, remote patient monitoring, teleurology and telenephrology, but now the pieces are all coming together as a virtual hospital. This will translate into better outcomes at a lower total cost of care.
Here to tell you more about this exciting development is St. Luke’s Communications Coordinator Chereen Langrill.
- David C. Pate, M.D., J.D.
When St. Luke’s began offering telehealth services several years ago, the focus was an electronic intensive care unit that decreased the number of days people spent in the intensive care unit and improved overall patient outcomes. It was an important first step in a journey to improve patient care by harnessing technology, and that journey continues today.
St. Luke’s is now building a virtual care center that will serve as a hub for a suite of telehealth programs, consolidating the services in one building to allow the team to collaborate and coordinate care.
Construction on the 35,000-square-foot center began in January, and soon teams will begin training in the space. Expected to be complete this summer, the virtual care center represents St. Luke’s ongoing commitment to giving patients access to quality care without barriers.
Those barriers can be geographic when people living in rural areas have limited or no access to specialists. People with physical barriers can be too sick to travel to a provider visit. Other patients face barriers related to transportation because they can’t drive or don’t have access to transportation.
In addition to removing barriers, virtual care also helps St. Luke’s more effectively reach specific patient populations, such as people with chronic illnesses.
“Merging technology and care delivery is the way we have to operate in order to be successful in population health,” said Krista Stadler, senior director of telehealth services for St. Luke’s Health System. “Hiring an army of 20,000 people to deliver quality care services is not realistic.
“With the growing Idaho population and consumer demand for convenient care, we have to explore how we can use technology to achieve our goals and meet the needs of our patients.”
A high-tech hub in Boise will feature a centralized medical team that includes physicians, nurses, allied health professionals and IT professionals. When fully operational, 350 team members will work to ensure the center provides continuous care. This means services are available at night, on weekends and even holidays. Telehealth services are available for patients at clinics, hospitals and homes throughout Idaho and Eastern Oregon.
There will be more than 60 virtual care stations with the ability to operate continually using two-way audio and video. A generator and back-up power will support the virtual care center and a St. Luke’s Disaster Response Center.
“If you peel back the curtains of the virtual care center, it will look like a lot of desks and people, but it is much more than that because of the level of care and services we can provide and the number of patients we can serve,” Stadler said.
Among the services that will be supported:
Regardless of the care setting, telehealth is a way to enhance the service already given through patients’ primary physicians. Support offered through telehealth technology allows the provider to consult with a specialized team, extending the impact of evidence-based care.
“This space will allow us to grow our services and capacity throughout the organization to ensure patients have access to the right care at the right time, regardless of geographic location,” Stadler said. “We believe there is an opportunity to improve a patient’s access to care and ensure that care is patient-centered.
“The virtual care center will serve as the epicenter of discovery and innovation as we act on this belief.”
Chereen Langrill is a former communications coordinator for St. Luke’s Health System