World’s First Virtual Care Center Tailored to Improve Physicians’ Quality of Life

By not taking calls at night, doctors can be more productive.’

Internist Randall Moore, MD, MBA, recalls countless nights of sleep interrupted by on-call requests.

Moore, now president of Mercy Virtual, is doing his part to make sure more doctors enjoy their private lives when they clock out of their practice, clinic or hospital.

“Instead of getting a 2 a.m. call to come in, they can sleep,” said Moore, who helped open the world’s first-of-its-kind Virtual Care Center last month near St. Louis, Mo. “It’ll enable them to be more productive, have less chance of burnout, and improve their quality of life while we enable better, more responsive care for their patients.”

When Mercy’s electronic intensive care unit (ICU), also known as Mercy SafeWatch, was established in 2006, Mercy had one “full” intensivist group in one site. Now, Mercy has intensivist groups at multiple sites, said Moore.

“One reason why, aside from our overarching mission of care, is to improve the quality of life for our doctors,” explained Moore. “For example, if a doctor goes into a community with no virtual care and he’s the only intensivist, he’s on call all the time. It’s tough and doctors burn out. With the virtual team, the doctor can go home and have a life. We do that increasingly across the board, not just Mercy SafeWatch. Using a nurse-on-call feature, which is housed inside the Virtual Care Center, 70 percent of the calls our doctors were getting a couple of years ago are now handled without them being bothered.”

Moore said Mercy will take another step to making it easier for doctors by bringing more physicians into the Virtual Care Center.

“Hopefully, we’ll approach 100 percent of the calls at night no longer going to our doctors,” he said. “By not taking calls at night, doctors can be more productive.”

Physicians have shared concerns about Virtual Care Center operations and how it will impact their practices, Moore shared.

“The Virtual Care Center isn’t a call center,” he emphasized. “It should be progressively integrated into the doctor’s practice. We’ve designed it specifically the way the doctor would want it done. You might say it’s somewhat of a mass customization … supporting our doctors and other healthcare professionals via the Virtual Care Center.”

In one-on-one conversations with doctors, Moore is often asked how the Virtual Care Center “can be better than what I can do?” Bolder ones ask: “Is it a threat to my practice?”

“The Virtual Care Center is another resource for a doctor or hospital to have in the care of their patient when they don’t have the time, resources or infrastructure to do it on their own,” he said. “It’s very complementary to what they do.”

One telehealth success story involves Mercy’s early warning system for sepsis. To identify patients at risk for sepsis and alert doctors to these risks for early intervention, Mercy’s Early Warning & Identification System (EWIS) monitors multiple patient variables in real-time.

“We look at building programs as ways to partner with doctors to create a seamless integration for the patient,” explained Moore. “We look at how we can improve the value of that entity – practice, clinic or hospital – in the local marketplace so they can show first and foremost, they can deliver better care with documented outcomes for the patients they serve. Secondly, we show how they’ll be financially and operationally rewarded instead of having their revenue adversely affected. I’ve had doctors say, ‘I don’t know how to sustain my practice if that happens.’ Instead, we’re helping them build a financially sustainable and professionally more rewarding offering in the community.”

Moore recalled a primary care physician sharing his experience after working with the Virtual Care Center. “He told me that after 35 years of the practice of medicine (without telehealth),” said Moore, “it was the most rewarding time of his professional life. That’s what we strive for, to allow doctors to get back to the basics of practicing medicine.”

By Lynne Jeter

Source: Arkansas Medical News – http://www.arkansasmedicalnews.com/business/article/20271346/mercy-unveils-worlds-first-virtual-care-center