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UPMC Starts Telemedicine Company to Fight Infectious Disease

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5/16/2019

PITTSBURGH – To help hospitals address a nationwide shortage of physicians specializing in infectious diseases, UPMC announced today that it has formed a telemedicine-enabled company called Infectious Disease (ID) Connect. Backed by the world-class ID expertise of UPMC, the new company aims to improve outcomes while reducing transfers and keeping patients in their own communities for treatment.

 

Rima AbdelMassih release“With the growing threat of drug-resistant organisms and costly government penalties for health care-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 ID Connect. “However, with ID specialists in short supply, many hospitals, especially smaller, community facilities, are struggling to meet this need. ID Connect was created to fill that gap.” 

 

Abdel-Massih, director of tele-ID services at UPMC, and John Mellors, M.D., chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases at UPMC and the University of Pittsburgh, are co-founders of the new company.

 

UPMC’s network of hospitals has been providing ID services to patients via telemedicine for the past five years, demonstrating that this service can reduce patient transfers to tertiary facilities, reduce health care-associated infections, improve patient outcomes and decrease antibiotic misuse. Likewise, national studies of interventions by infectious disease specialists have shown that they produce shorter hospital stays, reduce readmissions and lower patient mortality.

 

David Zynn release“Nationally, we see a compelling need for improved infectious disease care in hospitals,” said David Zynn, president of ID Connect, which is part of UPMC Enterprises, the health system’s innovation and commercialization arm. Health care-associated infections, he noted, affect 5 to 10% of patients and result in more than $40 billion annually in hospital costs. Up to half of antibiotic prescriptions are unnecessary, leading not only to higher costs but potentially to harmful side effects and growing antibiotic resistance.

 

ID Connect already serves 10 UPMC and five non-UPMC hospitals in Pennsylvania and surrounding states, and initially will focus on the more than 4,000 U.S. acute care hospitals with fewer than 300 beds. “These smaller facilities face an especially difficult time recruiting and retaining already scarce ID specialists,” said Abdel-Massih. “ID Connect can cost-effectively provide ID specialists, full-time or part-time, to augment existing staff.” 

 

Initially, the new company will be staffed by UPMC ID physicians who will continue to serve the health system. But as ID Connect grows into new markets, it will be hiring additional physicians to provide patient consultations, as well as expertise in antimicrobial stewardship and infection prevention and control, said Zynn. Longer-term, he expects the company to serve post-acute care patients at home following hospital discharge and international facilities. 

 

“As diagnosing and treating infectious diseases and ‘superbugs’ become increasingly complex, having access to infectious disease experts will be essential for every health care facility,” said Zynn. “Created by a health system that has led the way in both managing infectious diseases and implementing telemedicine, ID Connect is well-positioned to effectively serve hospitals and their patients.” 

PHOTO INFO: (click images for high-res versions) 

Credit both: UPMC

Top: Abdel-Massih, director, tele-ID services at UPMC

Bottom: David Zynn, president, ID Connect