UPMC Forms Telemedicine Company to Address Infectious Disease Specialist Shortage


With a shortage in specialists, the service could help address an issue that costs health care billions of dollars a year.

University of Pittsburgh Medical Center has formed a telemedicine-enabled company, Infectious Disease Connect, to help hospitals address the shortage of infectious disease specialists.

The company aims to improve outcomes, reduce transfers and keep patients in their own communities for treatment.

“As diagnosing and treating infectious diseases and ‘superbugs’ become increasingly complex, having access to infectious disease experts will be essential for every healthcare facility,” said David Zynn, president of Infectious Disease Connect.

UPMC’s health system has provided infectious disease telemedicine services to patients for the past five years. Infectious Disease Connect jumps off that model, bringing a team of specialists to hospitals in a more cost-effective manner and providing primary expertise, backfill support and staff augmentation.

Health care-associated infections affect between 5 and 10% of patients and result in more than $40 billion annually in hospital costs. But with the shortage of specialists, many hospitals and smaller facilities are struggling to address these issues.

Through such telemedicine services, UPMC said it has seen a reduction in patient transfers to tertiary facilities, a reduction in healthcare-associated infections, improved patient outcomes and a reduction of antibiotic misuse.

“With the growing threat of drug-resistant organisms and costly government penalties for healthcare-associated infections, it has never been more critical for hospitals to properly diagnose, treat and prevent such infections,” said Rima Abdel-Massih, M.D., chief medical officer for Infectious Disease Connect.

Infectious Disease Connect serves 10 UPMC and five non-UPMC hospitals in Pennsylvania and surrounding states.

The company is staffed by UPMC infectious disease physicians to serve the health system. As it expands into new markets, Infectious Disease Connect plans to hire additional physicians to provide patient consultations.

In addition to the newly launched company, UPMC offers a telehealth program that connects small and rural community hospitals and outpatient locations to specialists. The healthcare organization also partners with a major grocery chain to bring telemedicine services to patients in the retail setting.

This article, "UPMC Forms Telemedicine Company for Infectious Diseases," originally appeared on iDigitalHealth.com.

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