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OSF Showcases New OnCall Digital Health Center In Downtown Peoria

OSF HealthCare officials believe their new OnCall telehealth facility in downtown Peoria acts somewhat as a gateway to the industry's future.

“Think of this building as our virtual hospital,” said Jennifer Junis, senior vice president for OSF On-Call. “So this is a central command center where we can care for patients in a very wide geography, whether they're in a hospital or whether they're at home, and really meet them where they are.”

OSF showcased the dedicated digital care command center’s capabilities and services during an unveiling tour Thursday afternoon. Junis said plans for the location at 330 SW Adams St. were in the works well before COVID-19 struck last year.

“It became even more critical during the pandemic to care for our patients in their homes and where they were,” she said, noting some services operated out of temporary locations before the facility’s phased opening started in January. “So this move into the building really allowed our team to come together in one central location.”

With OSF operating 13 hospitals across Illinois, the OnCall facility provides a large area with a wide range of telehealth services, from remote at-home patient monitoring to virtual interactions between hospitalized patients and specialized physicians.

Beth Wharton, the operations manager for the Advanced Care program, oversees a platform geared toward high-risk patients with chronic complex conditions. Patients receive a kit with a blood pressure cuff, a thermometer, a pulse oximeter, and a tablet that records the data and transfers the information to the OnCall center via a cellular signal.

“Many times a patient may wait until symptoms have gotten worse before they seek care,” said Wharton. “So we're here to help monitor them with home monitoring equipment, and have health care clinicians available 24/7, so that if we need to get them to a higher level of care or get them connected with a specific type of care, we can do that quickly.”

Another service called Digital Acute Care uses a cart equipped with a high-definition, high resolution camera to allow off-site doctors to interact with patients in emergency rooms and intensive care units.

“It allows us to access those specialty physicians from a facility that may not have access to those physicians all the time. Physicians could be anywhere,” said Suzanne Hinderliter, director of digital acute care.

“We really want to keep patients in a place where they feel safe and secure and comfortable. So it's really a way for us to provide services and resources to them when and where they need them.”

Jennie Van Antwerp, director of contact center client operations, oversees a department of nurses who field calls 24 hours a day — at an average of between 10,000-12,000 calls each week.

“They can answer anywhere between 30 and 50 calls a day, which means they interact with upwards of 50 patients a day that need something from them, and that they can provide care for,” said Van Antwerp.

“Patients call in and basically want to know what they can do for their care: ‘Can I stay at home? What sort of care advice do I need? Can I get an appointment? Or do I need to go to the emergency department? Am I that sick that I need to see someone right away?’”

The OSF OnCall Care Hub coordinates transfers both between and within OSF medical centers, and also reviews and analyzes patient needs.

“It's that information that our staffing analysts take to help drive our decisions, where to place the nurses each day in order to have the right amount of resources to care for the patients on that floor or in that ICU or even in our critical access hospitals,” said Heather Cenek, manager of the Care Hub’s Clinical Resource Team.

Junis said that through the multiple digital platforms and services provided at the OnCall center, the goal is to still provide compassionate, personal care while embracing a modern method of contact.

“I think it's like every other aspect of our life that we've digitized, from ordering our groceries to making sure that we can order something arrives on our doorstep the next day,” she said. “It's the convenience and health care has been a little bit lagging in that. And we want to make sure that we're in the leading edge.”

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