By Matthew Arnold, Principal Analyst

It's still pretty early days for telemedicine, but that could change fast as large regional health systems build out the necessary infrastructure. The Wall Street Journal has a look at the mammoth operation that Mercy, the St. Louis, MO-based health system, is constructing:

Mercy, with 42 acute-care and specialty hospitals, 700 clinic and outpatient facilities and more than 2,100 doctors in four states, is breaking ground this week on a $50 million virtual-care center. When it opens next year it will house 75 telemedicine programs staffed by 300 medical professionals linked to Mercy facilities and partner hospitals.

The Journal says hospitals and health systems are looking to interactive video consults as a solution to the severe shortage of specialists and give patients high-quality ongoing care for complex problems without requiring them to travel long distances or wait months for an appointment.

While the percentage of U.S. physicians doing video consults is still in the single digits, two in five report using digital technology to communicate with patients more than they did a year ago, according to Manhattan Research's Taking the Pulse U.S.® 2014 report, and two in five also agree that using digital technologies to communicate remotely with patients will improve patient outcomes. And with ACOs seemingly here to stay, outcomes is the new true north across the healthcare industry.

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