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Covenant Health hospitals use innovative telehealth technology to expand patients’ access to specialized care
By Lauren Miller

Covenant Health is implementing and expanding telehealth technology in several locations including LeConte Medical Center, Morristown-Hamblen Healthcare System, Fort Loudoun Medical Center and Roane Medical Center. This capability will help Covenant, the area’s largest health system with services offered in 23 Tennessee counties, to provide specialized medical services in its community hospitals outside Knoxville.

Telehealth uses electronic information and telecommunications to support long-distance health care, including using video technology for remote clinical assessments and consultations for patient care.

“Our vision is that patients at any Covenant Health hospital will have access to the care they need, regardless of whether the hospital is one of our larger Knoxville-area facilities or whether it’s a community hospital in another part of our region,” said Jim VanderSteeg, President and CEO of Covenant Health.

BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee is a collaborator in the technology initiative, and the company recently provided a significant financial contribution for the purchase of telehealth equipment at Covenant Health hospitals. The contribution is one benefit of a multi-year strategic partnership agreement between Covenant Health and BlueCross.

“The agreement provides a framework for collaboration that can improve patient care and services, and reduce costs,” VanderSteeg said. “I appreciate our BlueCross partners’ valuable contribution toward purchasing new telehealth devices.”

“We are grateful for the collaborative relationship we have with Covenant Health, and we welcome the opportunity to support their expansion of telehealth capability,” said Scott Pierce, executive vice president and chief operating officer for BlueCross. “We look forward to seeing the results of this initiative, which will make specialized care more accessible to our members in East Tennessee.”

Telehealth is enhancing Covenant Health’s ability to provide excellent care in several ways:
• Telehealth technology brings “virtual” physician specialists such as neurohospitalists, critical care intensivists and neonatologists (in partnership with East Tennessee Children’s Hospital) to the patient’s bedside in Covenant Health’s community hospitals. This allows the hospitals to provide timely specialized care, for example, for stroke patients or newborns experiencing complications. Telehealth maximizes the effectiveness and availability of specialists across the health system.

• Virtual technology often reduces the need to transfer patients to larger facilities for care. This makes care easier and more convenient for the patient and allows family members to be close to their loved one.

• If a transfer to a larger Covenant Health hospital is needed, telehealth communication helps accomplish the transfer quickly and smoothly.

• Telehealth helps physicians and staff at different facilities collaborate effectively on patient care plans and share information efficiently, resulting in faster decision making and consistency of care across Covenant Health.

“The health system has already invested more than $500,000 in telehealth technology and plans to expand telehealth services to include additional hospitals and specialties in the future,” VanderSteeg said.

“With the implementation of video technology and other telehealth initiatives across Covenant Health, our patients will have timely access to specialized medical services that otherwise would not be available locally. In addition, we expect the technology to help reduce costs as patients receive appropriate care and specialized services closer to home,” he said.

“Telehealth is an exciting step into the future of health care,” VanderSteeg said. “Ultimately, we believe our telehealth capabilities will result in better patient outcomes and greater patient and family confidence in the care we provide throughout the Covenant Health system.”

About Covenant Health
As the area’s largest health system with services in 23 Tennessee counties, Covenant Health is committed to delivering excellent medical care in local communities. The health system includes 10 hospitals and numerous outpatient services and locations, making quality care accessible to people throughout the region. Visit

About BlueCross®
BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee’s mission is to provide peace of mind through better health. Founded in 1945, the Chattanooga-based company is focused on serving more than 3.5 million members in Tennessee and across the country. BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee Inc. is an independent licensee of the BlueCross BlueShield Association. For more information, visit the company's website at

Published August 20, 2019

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