ARTICLE

Mercy, Rockwell open telehealth clinic

Employer-based facility connects patients with physicians off-site

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Adam Wesley/The Gazette

Mercy Physician Assistant Kara Goslin watches remotely as Register Nurse Courtnie Voss (in inse
Adam Wesley/The Gazette Mercy Physician Assistant Kara Goslin watches remotely as Register Nurse Courtnie Voss (in inset) demonstrates the use of a camera at a new telehealth clinic on the Rockwell Collins campus in Cedar Rapids on Wednesday. The clinic will be staffed with two nurses from MercyCare and will allow Rockwell employees to have a doctor’s visit on site.

CEDAR RAPIDS — A different kind of health care clinic will open on the Rockwell Collins’s campus.

The Cedar Rapids-based avionics and information technology systems giant and MercyCare Community Physicians partnered to build a telehealth clinic at 5070 Rockwell Dr. NE, which will open on April 20.

The clinic will offer on-site health care to employees and their families on the company health plan through telemedicine — allowing patients to communicate remotely with Mercy physicians via a secure video feed from three area clinics — in Marion, Blairs Ferry and downtown Cedar Rapids.

Rockwell Collins provided the funds to remodel its former day care center into the clinic space, which has two exam rooms and a lab.

Mercy provided the two telehealth carts, which include a video monitor, web camera and diagnostic equipment, such as otoscope (used to exam ears), exam camera and a high-definition stethoscope.

Dr. Tim Sagers, medical director of Mercy’s Business Health Solutions, which works with employers to provide health and wellness benefits, said when the hospital purchased the telehealth equipment several years ago each cart cost about $50,000. However, those prices have come down significantly, he said.

Two Mercy nurses will staff the clinic, which will be open to about 6,000 of Rockwell Collins’s 8,0000 employees in Cedar Rapids, officials said. Meanwhile, nine Mercy physicians will take turns manning the other end of the system, interacting with patients and providing care for acute conditions such as sinus infections, ear infections, urinary tract infections, rash and flu.

Physicians are able to view images from the diagnostic equipment through a separate video feed.

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“The idea in general is based on ... improving patient access and the patient experience while lowering costs,” Sagers said.

The on-site clinic means big savings for Rockwell Collins and its employees. Employees will have shorter wait times — no more than five minutes — than if they were to go to another area clinic, which Rockwell Collins hopes will cut down on absenteeism and increase productivity.

The company also will save on its health plan. And Megan Schmitt, a benefits analysts at Rockwell Collins, said the company estimates employees will save between $30 to $80 by visiting the telehealth clinic, which adds up.

“We wanted to give employees a consumer-driven, cost-effective place to get medical care,” she said.

MercyCare and Rockwell Collins worked closely with Wellmark Blue Cross Blue Shield to create reimbursement rates similar to what a physician would receive if a patient visited a traditional clinic. This is an important piece of the puzzle as telehealth experts have sited low reimbursement rates as one reason for why this technology has not expanded as quickly as they’d like.

Sagers said Mercy has not made any kind of projections for how many employees will use the clinic on a monthly basis. But the health care provider hopes this will be a successful initiative, and he added Mercy is working with other companies in the area on similar partnerships.

“This is a big, directional move,” Sagers said.

l Comments: (319) 398-8331; chelsea.keenan@thegazette.com

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