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Intermountain Healthcare TeleHealth Services

Summary 
  • Need: An aging population, shortage of medical providers, and reforms in reimbursement systems were just some of the challenges for rural areas recognized by Intermountain Healthcare.
  • Intervention: In response, they’ve developed an Intermountain TeleHealth Services strategy to provide consultation and emergency medical help electronically for patients and clinicians in both urban and remote areas.
  • Results: Intermountain has installed video and audio conferencing platforms in over 1,200 locations. To date, mortality rates and length of hospital stays have decreased, and patient retention has increased.
Description
Intermountain Healthcare Logo

Intermountain Healthcare, located in Salt Lake City, Utah, operates 22 hospitals and 185 clinics and urgent care facilities in Utah and Idaho. As one of the nation’s largest health systems, Intermountain Healthcare has expanded their reach through telehealth services, increasing healthcare access for those living in remote communities in Wyoming, Idaho, Nevada, and Montana. In 2014, Intermountain TeleHealth Services was created in response to the following challenges:

  • An aging population
  • Increased numbers of high-needs patients
  • Shortage of medical providers
  • Reforms to reimbursement systems
  • Requests from rural hospitals for clinical expertise and support

Launched in 2014, Intermountain TeleHealth Services provides proactive monitoring, specialty consultations and emergency medical help for patients and clinicians alike through video and audio conferencing around the clock in all Intermountain ICU’s and 5 non-Intermountain hospitals. A team of 22 intensivists and 20 critical care nurses at Intermountain’s Critical Care Support Center in Midvale, Utah works directly with local medical teams to care for critically ill patients regardless of their location.

Not only can local providers connect with specialists in both Intermountain and outreach facilities, but patients can now gain immediate access to urgent care through Connect Care, a mobile app that can be downloaded on any personal electronic device. Intermountain providers can diagnose and prescribe certain medications through Connect Care, or refer patients to a provider for a face-to-face consultation if their condition can’t be treated via telehealth.

Intermountain TeleHealth Services provides over 35 telehealth services, in areas including behavioral health, neurosciences, cancer care, diabetes, language services, pediatrics, women and newborn care, pharmacy, primary care, and wound care. Intermountain TeleHealth Services is internally funded.

This video further explains the Intermountain Healthcare TeleHealth program:

Services offered

Intermountain Healthcare uses telehealth to provide the following services to patients:

  • Behavioral Health – Connects patients and providers to behavioral specialists during both crisis care situations and outpatient psychiatry. Social workers are on stand-by to guide clinicians in serving patients in crisis within twenty minutes
  • Cancer Care – Patients with cancer are able to remain in their communities and receive ongoing treatments in their communities with remote physician assistance, reducing stress for patients and families, and saving thousands of dollars for patient and physician’s to travel.
  • Diabetes – Diabetes educators offer support and education to patients.
  • Language Services – Interpreters are accessed via video on hundreds of devices in hospitals and clinics to help patients who speak little or no English communicate with their local provider.
  • Pediatrics – Children can see a team of pediatric trauma specialists, critical care specialists, craniofacial specialists, neurology, urology and other specialists located at Primary Children’s Hospital without having to travel long distances.
  • Women and Newborn Care – Provides lactation support for new moms, genetic counseling, and neonatal specialist for infants born with complications. To date, neonatologists have provided 475 consultations for critically ill babies, resulting in a reduction of over 60 transfers.
  • Wound Care – Patients in need of wound treatment can gain advice from specialists in their home without having to travel, improving quality of care and outcomes for those patients.
  • Stroke – Connects patients in EDs to neurologists at Intermountain Medical Center. Real-time evaluations and consults are given to providers who are on-site with the patient. Neurologists are constantly available to assess stroke victims and help local clinicians deliver the appropriate care. Median response time for providers is 3 minutes, and door-to-needle times are decreasing.
This video shares the story of how Intermountain Healthcare TeleHealth helped providers treat stroke victim Gustavo Alvarez:

Intermountain TeleHealth Services has initiated the above services through the following 3 methods:

  • Clinician-to-Clinician – Connects a provider needing additional expertise to specialists, including intensivists or critical care nurses, neurologists, neonatologists, and more.
  • Direct-to-Consumer – Patients may receive diagnoses, treatment plans, and prescriptions from an Intermountain provider during a digital consultation through Connect Care. A digital consultation runs $49 per visit. The provider can access Intermountain patients’ medical records, medical history and medications and can electronic prescriptions to the patient’s preferred pharmacy via Connect Care. Primary care follow-up visits are now available and specialty care will be soon.
  • Remote Patient Monitoring – While hypertension and diabetes conditions are already being monitored remotely through pilot programs, Intermountain TeleHealth Services is working on remote patient monitoring for COPD, motion, and wellness through personal electronic devices. Intermountain is also using EHR portals to simplify the experience for patients and maintain consistency in their interaction with providers.
Results

Intermountain Healthcare has installed a common technology platform in more than 1,200 patient rooms, intensive care units, emergency departments, neonatal care units, and outpatient clinics. Since the launch of the Critical Care TeleHealth program:

  • Mortality rates have decreased by 33% in community hospitals
  • Length of hospital stay has decreased by 7%
  • Higher acuity patients are now able to stay in their communities more often.
  • Over 12,000 digital visits have been completed through Connect Care.

The telehealth initiatives have been so well-received by hospital staff, clinical leaders, and front-line staff members that 100 additional requests for specific telehealth services have been made so far.

Read more about Intermountain TeleHealth Services in the news:

Barriers

The following are challenges Intermountain TeleHealth Services faced when setting up the new system:

  • Reimbursement for telehealth services is still lacking and obtaining out of state licensure is complex.
  • Getting both patients and providers comfortable with the concept of using a video and audio system rather than having a face-to-face appointment.
  • Scaling the technology and bandwidth to make the telehealth experience a smooth one for both patients and clinicians.
  • Helping physicians understand the opportunity telehealth creates for their practice, including the ability to extend their care, improve workflow efficiencies, and treat patients (especially those in remote areas) in a timely manner.
Replication
  • Choose a concrete strategy that helps you to improve quality of care while reducing costs.
  • Gain support from executive leaders and innovative, respected clinicians who will help drive the transformation of care models.
  • Be willing to make a financial investment in telehealth.
  • Establish a strong governance model to prioritize and carry out initiatives.
  • Develop business cases with appropriate metrics that will help leaders understand costs, benefits, and operational requirements.
  • Test new initiatives through pilot programs.
Contact Information
Tara Larkin, Operations Director of TeleHealth Services
Intermountain Healthcare
Intermountain TeleHealth Services
801.442.2000
Tara.Larkin@imail.org
Topics
Access
Emergency medical services
Telehealth
States served
Idaho, Utah
Date added
September 1, 2016
Date updated or reviewed
October 5, 2017

Please contact the models and innovations contact directly for the most complete and current information about this program. Summaries of models and innovations are provided by RHIhub for your convenience. The programs described are not endorsed by RHIhub or by the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy. Each rural community should consider whether a particular project or approach is a good match for their community’s needs and capacity. While it is sometimes possible to adapt program components to match your resources, keep in mind that changes to the program design may impact results.