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The Doctor is Virtually “In”


Telehealth Pilot Extends Reach of Specialty Care to Patients, Increases Access to Urgent Care,

Improves Efficiencies for Clinicians, Drives down Health Care Costs

Orange, Calif., June 4, 2012 – St. Joseph Health, in collaboration with AT&T*, successfully launched a telehealth pilot earlier this year using Cisco HealthPresenceTMthat allows patients, physicians and other health and wellness specialists in disparate locations to meet and consult virtually via immersive video and audio technologies. St. Joseph Health, a 14-hospital health system serving California, west Texas and eastern New Mexico, began collaborating with AT&T in early 2011, and preliminary results indicate positive feedback from patients and clinicians.

Since the pilot went live four months ago, 26 providers and one psychiatrist have seen about 250 patients at the two interactive telehealth sites available to patients. These virtual visits extend beyond the hospital walls to provide better access to specialty care, urgent care, wellness and health improvement services where they haven't been as accessible before. The telehealth pilot is part of St. Joseph Health's Healthiest Communities initiative, which focuses on improving access to health care services and quality of care to the communities it serves.

The first few months of the telehealth pilot have shown excellent patient satisfaction rates – from initial surveys conducted by St. Joseph Health – approximately:

  • 95% of patients seen were "completely satisfied" with their telehealth experience.
  • 96% of patients were "completely satisfied" with their telehealth physicians.
  • 99% of patients said they would use telehealth services again.

Although many of these patients have had urgent care needs, St. Joseph Health has also had great success with the psychiatry consultation services that telehealth has enabled the community health centers to provide. While securing an appointment with a psychiatrist can take months in a traditional setting, telehealth has allowed patients to make appointments within a matter of days or weeks and, more importantly, get the help they need faster.

Bianca Torres, a full-time student at Saddleback College in Mission Viejo, Calif., turned to telehealth after a sore throat caused her concern. Having just moved to Southern California earlier this year and not yet having insurance to cover a traditional doctor's visit, she went to St. Joseph Health's Camino Health Center in San Juan Capistrano for a telehealth appointment. "They could see me right away through the telehealth clinic," Torres said. "I had never seen or heard of [telehealth] before, but it was easy and very convenient for me."

Not only was Torres able to take advantage of this affordable and conveniently-located service, she said it felt just as comfortable as a traditional visit to the doctor. "It felt like I had a doctor right in front of me instead of on the screen," she said, "I didn't feel alone."

Patients need access to basic and specialty health care – regardless of financial, social, geographic, transportation and other barriers. With a significant shortage of specialists today and many community health centers reaching capacity, it's more critical than ever to connect patients to quality care when they need it. Increasingly, care is taking place in non-traditional settings matched to the diverse needs of urban centers, smaller cities and rural communities.

Primary care clinicians are staffing the program and specialists are available either on call or by appointment. Each site provides these core services:

  • Urgent Care
  • Access to Specialty Care like Psychiatry
  • Chronic Disease Management
  • Wellness and Health Improvement

"The telehealth program is the ideal way for physicians to be able to care for more patients in need of their services," said Elliot Sternberg, MD, executive vice president, wellness & health improvement at St. Joseph Health. "Not only is this model enabling us to better serve our community – which is part of our overall mission at St. Joseph Health – it is also a huge step for us into the future of health care technology."

Not only do patients avoid unnecessary and inconvenient travel, and save hours, or sometimes weeks, to see a specialist, the clinicians themselves have more flexible schedules, improving their efficiency, while reducing travel expenses.

Technology is a critical component that makes these connections possible, transforming how care is delivered. The telehealth sites include a fully managed AT&T telehealth solution called AT&T Telepresence Clinic that is comprised of components including Cisco HealthPresence, the AT&T Business Exchange and AMD Global Telemedicine medical diagnostic devices and subsystems. The solution also incorporates Emerge.MD's OnePlaceTM, a workflow enabled virtual clinic that enables clinicians to seamlessly collaborate with other staff members and patients virtually regardless of their physical location, from any internet enabled device.

St. Joseph Health's telehealth pilot was sponsored in part by a grant from the UniHealth Foundation, an independent private health care foundation committed to becoming a pacesetter in health care philanthropy.

You can find more information about telehealth on the St. Joseph Health website and see telehealth in action with this video.

*AT&T products and services are provided or offered by subsidiaries and affiliates of AT&T Inc. under the AT&T brand and not by AT&T Inc. AT&T, the AT&T logo and all other marks contained herein are trademarks of AT&T Intellectual Property and/or AT&T affiliated companies. All other marks contained herein are the property of their respective owners.

About St. Joseph Health
St. Joseph Health is a $4.7 billion integrated Catholic health care delivery system sponsored by the St. Joseph Health Ministry. We provide a full range of care facilities including: acute care hospitals, home health agencies, hospice care, outpatient services, skilled nursing facilities, community clinics and physician organizations throughout California, Texas and New Mexico. Our 24,000 dedicated employees strive daily to provide perfect care while building the healthiest communities and ensuring every encounter is sacred. St. Joseph Health is committed to maintaining a continuum of care that matches the diverse needs of the communities we serve. For more information about St. Joseph Health, log onto www.stjoe.org.

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