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How nighttime telehealth services can improve overnight care
At CHRISTUS Mother Frances Hospital in Sulphur Springs, Texas, night shift nurses can immediately access a doctor via video through a partnership with Access Physicians, located about 90 miles away in Dallas. "Nocturnists"—medical professionals who provide care overnight—have been around at hospitals since the late 1990s, but telemedicine is advancing that concept. After studies showed patients admitted after hours had a higher chance of dying, it has become a greater priority for more and more health systems to fill the position. By 2011, roughly 1,500 hospitals had at least one nocturnist on staff, and more recent surveys say about half of the country's health systems now have some type of nocturnist program. "For too long, hospitals just had to accept that nights were really hard or really expensive or both," says CEO Talbot "Mac" McCormick of Atlanta-based Eagle Telemedicine, which deploys 20 telenocturnists to 15 health systems across the country. "Only recently has that started to change." A telenocturnist program can be a financially appealing option for many hospitals. Having a doctor on site overnight can run more than $150 to $175 an hour, while a telemedicine doctor can charge $50 to $75 an hour. However, McCormick notes that telenocturnist services are not yet being consistently reimbursed.