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Intermountain Creates Virtual Hospital

Posted on March 16, 2018 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare branding and communications expert with more than 25 years of industry experience. and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also worked extensively healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or www.ziegerhealthcare.com.

A couple of years ago, I wrote an item describing the Mercy Virtual Care Center, a four-story, $54 million venture which describes itself as a “hospital without beds.” The Center, which launched in October 2015, has more than 300 staffers. After one year of operation, the Virtual Care program had cut emergency department visits and hospitalizations by an impressive 33%.

Now, Intermountain Healthcare is following in Mercy’s footsteps. Last month, Intermountain announced a launch of its virtual hospital service, Connect Care Pro, which brings together 35 telehealth programs and more than 500 clinicians. Its goals are to supplement existing staff and provide specialized services in rural communities where some types of care are not available.

Unlike Mercy’s offering, Connect Care Pro’s services aren’t located in a single building, but according to Intermountain, it can still provide much of the care that you find at a large, sophisticated hospital. It describes its approach as clinically integrated and digitally enabled. (I’m not sure what clinical integration looks like in telehealth, so I’d love to hear more about that in the future.)

In explaining why Connect Care Pro matters, Intermountain tells the story of an infant admitted to a southern Utah hospital which needed intensive services. Because the infant was supported via Connect Care Pro, it received a remote critical care consultation rather than having to be transferred to a different ICU in Salt Lake City. Avoiding the transfer saved over $18,000 and allowed the baby’s parents to remain in their community.

Now, all Intermountain Healthcare hospitals, including 10 of its rural hospitals, use the virtual hospital’s services to build on their existing offerings. Also, nine hospitals outside of the Intermountain system have signed up to use Connect Care Pro.

While I might’ve missed something in my searches, from what I can tell few hospitals systems have gone to the trouble of creating a fully-fledged virtual hospital service, though many are offering telemedicine options to support rural hospitals and clinics.

Part of the reason may be financial. After all, as noted above, Mercy did spend more than $50 million to create its hospital without walls. However, I’d argue that the main reason for hospitals haven’t created similar centers is that they simply don’t understand their benefits, and to some extent may be in denial about the extent to which medical care is becoming decentralized.

Despite the costs and effort involved, I do think we’ll see more virtual hospitals emerge over the next few years. I just don’t think most hospital systems are ready to move ahead just yet.

Smart takes: Hospital social media tips and tactics

Posted on June 23, 2010 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare branding and communications expert with more than 25 years of industry experience. and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also worked extensively healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or www.ziegerhealthcare.com.

Here’s a neat collection of Tweets offering hospitals some perspective on how to build a social media marketing campaign, with a dash of of our own ideas:

> RT @LindsayMBurke: Amazing list of Hospital Social Media Policies #RNChat http://ebennett.org/hsnl/hsmp/ #rnchat #hcsm #hcsmeu

AZ:  Here’s an exercise we recommend:  brainstorm a list of five to ten social media policies you’d like to put in place, then read these suggestions. Next, ask yourself what the differences mean.  Our take is that most facilities impose misguided, knee-jerk policies on employees, ones which bear no relationship to how much they trust them otherwise.

> Interesting RT @ERMSquirrel: “If we can trust our hospital staff with sharp instruments, we can trust them with social media.” #hcsm

AZ: Heck yeah, but most CEOs think information is *far* more dangerous. Truthfully, sometimes they’re right, but even so, the problem’s easy enought to address.

> @agsocialmedia A good blog: Hospital Social Media: Fluidity – gauge the engagement: Fluidity – gauge the engagement. Social media… http://bit.ly/9KdDk5

AZ:  Sounds a bit esoteric, but the bottom line is that you can’t beat any approach to death;  don’t forget to apply the “evaluate and reposition” stage to your communications efforts. And we’re not talking about PR, marketing and social media; we’re talking about the entire way you look about how you talk to *EVERYONE*.  (Rant to follow in future post.)

> @kevinmessina Social Media vs. Traditional Media for Hospital Marketing http://wp.me/pzB01-16

AZ:  Always a good idea to look at whether you’ve dragging useless notions from the old media into the news.

@Focus on the social networks that are yielding you the most benefit. Don’t spread yourself too thin over 10 if you can do it with 5.

AZ:  Great, great point.  Many of our customers think communications efforts — including social media — involve shooting at broad targets with metaphoric paintballs. Well, if you do that all you have is a drippy wall that virtually no one sees.

> @nancysiniard Hospital Marketing: Social Media as Customer Service Tool http://wp.me/pzB01-bq

AZ:  By *all means* read this link above.  While other industries — think @comcastcares — are learning how to communicate with customers through Twitter and Facebook, most hospitals aren’t even doing a good job with incoming phone calls. Hey, use this  moment as a chance to take your entire customer service effort up a notch by a) talking to patients and the community and b) helping internal stakeholders communicate back and forth with customer services.

And finally…some brain food:

> @prsarahevans This isn’t Facebook, but def the coolest hospital social media I’ve seen. http://blog.areustrongenough.com

> @appliedart Top 10 takeaways from the Iowa Hospital Association Social Media Conference held on June 10. http://fb.me/CMVguPiH

Theory #1: nextHospitals must serve anyone they can reach

Posted on July 12, 2009 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare branding and communications expert with more than 25 years of industry experience. and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also worked extensively healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or www.ziegerhealthcare.com.

Until recently, a hospital’s service area was defined almost entirely by the  the neighborhood in which its campus was based.

In essence, hospital executives and board members could choose a physical boundary, be it a county line, a large highway or a ring a few miles in diameter around their facility, and declare that to be their home base.

Today, this approach is is hopelessly outdated.

Of course, hospitals will continue to put their immediate, physical community first, as there’s no getting away from that aspect of their mission. But increasingly, hospitals–like every other business–are being drawn into new relationships fostered by social media tools, mobile phones, YouTube, provider rating sites and more. And it’s time that they use those channels to expand their role.

Many hospital leaders seem to see these tools solely as a channel to blast out their corporate message, but they couldn’t be more mistaken. The people on the other end of these communications, folks, are also your patients.

In fact, this is so much the case that you’ll probably end up sinking big bucks into new communication strategies and technologies, even at the risk of putting off that multi-million dollar pavilion you’d planned to build.

The nextHospital leader will find a way to serve the needs of any patient his facility reaches, by implementing the smartest telemedicine, wellness support, education and virtual support groups available. (And no, we’re not talking static reprints of basic family medical guides you can find on WebMD or ADAM.)

If serving your virtual patients properly means developing a completely different health planning process, so be it.  In today’s world, it’s your responsibility and there’s no excuse to duck it.

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So, folks:  Comments? Questions? Complaints?  Facts to contribute which undermine or strengthen my thesis?  Have at it!