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The $54 million hospital without any beds

Executive Director - Friday, September 16, 2016

Mercy Hospital wants to provide better care for its patients -- by making sure they don't come to the hospital.

Instead, 330 staffers at Mercy's Virtual Care Center, located just outside of St. Louis, place video calls to patients using highly sensitive two-way cameras -- and monitor their vital signs in real time through tools like pulse oximeters that plug into an iPad.

The goal: Avoid expense and hassle on both sides by providing care when and where the patient needs it, preventing some of the hospital re-admissions that add $41.3 billion to hospital costs annually, according to a government study.
Under new federal guidelines, hospitals are partly responsible for keeping costs down. So they're turning to video chats, email and other online communications to keep patients out of the ER whenever possible.
"The sickest 5% of patients are typically responsible for about half of the health care spent and many end up, unnecessarily, back in the hospital," Gavin Helton, the medical director of Mercy Virtual Care, told CNNMoney. "We need an answer for those patients."
Mercy says the Virtual Care Center, launched in October 2015, is the first of its kind: a $54 million, four-story "hospital without beds" that houses zero patients. It's home to a variety of "telemedicine" programs that allow Mercy to care for patients remotely round-the-clock.

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