Mayo's telehealth services may be expanding amid consolidation

Rochester, Minn.-based Mayo Clinic's telemedicine offerings have significantly expanded since their inception in 2013, SC Times reports.

The health system's enhanced-intensive care unit uses video monitors and advanced technology that allow a team of specialists to remotely monitor ICU patients from eight regional sites. Sean Caples, DO, and his team staff the command center 24/7, adding additional physicians during the busier night hours. The E-ICU has improved Mayo's mortality index by 40 percent in the first year after its 2013 implementation.

"What we have is the benefit of two sets of eyes looking at patients," said Lori Routh, nurse administrator for Mayo Clinic Health System-Austin (Minn.) and Albert Lea (Minn.), but who is based in Austin. "They're looking at it from a different viewpoint in Rochester, and we're the boots on the ground. It allows us to handle things more rapidly, and there's a greater confidence in keeping patients who are critically ill because we have that expertise at our fingertips."

In October, the hospital transitioned its ICU services from its Albert Lea campus to its Austin location. Dr. Caples told SC Times an E-ICU room remains in Albert Lea, but it hasn't been used since the consolidation.

Now, as Mayo looks to consolidate additional services at its Albert Lea campus — which may also lose its obstetrics department by 2019 — telemedicine may be even more valuable for patients and physicians alike. A recent University of Minnesota study found that telemedicine was a viable option for addressing rural America's lack of access to childbirth services.

Mayo already offers telemedicine support to many of its obstetrics departments, in a way similar to Dr. Caples' E-ICU program. And while you can't deliver a baby through a computer, Katy Kozhimannil, PhD, an associate professor and director of research at the University of Minnesota's Rural Health Research Center, said telemedicine can aid in prenatal and postnatal care.

"It's really all about patient care," Dr. Caples said of Mayo's telehealth services. "This is really the whole idea behind the Mayo Clinic system. Nobody wants to have everybody coming to Rochester — we don't have capacity for that, and no one wants to leave their community. This technology is the exact way to do it."

More articles on telehealth:

Patient awareness of telehealth not as high as providers may think: 5 survey insights

FCC votes to waive $400k funding cap on rural telehealth program for FY17

FCC, National Cancer Institute sign memorandum on rural broadband

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