>>>Slideshow: Mercy Virtual Care
If there was any doubt that telemedicine could be the next big thing in healthcare, St. Louis-based Mercy erased it this week with an announcement that it will build a $50 million virtual care center in the nearby town of Chesterfield, MO.
The 42-hospital system, which bills itself as the nation's sixth largest Catholic healthcare system, broke ground this week on a four-story, 120,000 square foot telemedicine mega-building that, when finished, will be the command center of the health system's already large telehealth program.
"The center will bring together the nation's best telehealth professionals to reach more patients, develop more telemedicine services, and improve how we deliver virtual care through education and innovation," said Lynn Britton, Mercy's president and CEO, in a statement.
Mercy's journey into providing telemedicine began nine years ago, says Tom Hale, MD, executive medical director for the organization's telehealth services. The provider has acute and specialty hospitals in four states: Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Arkansas. It offers 75 different telemedicine services to more than 3 million patients, and as Hale told me, Mercy's telemedicine component of care is only expected to grow.