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Telemedicine Transforms Intensive Care Units in Smaller Hospitals with Remote Monitoring

Posted Feb 10 2011 12:00am

I recently stumbled upon a successful example of telemedicine about which I was unaware -- the enhanced intensive care unit (eICU). Provena Health , with six hospitals in Illinois, has a web page explaining the concept which I quote from below (see: eICU - enhanced ICU ):

Initially one of only a handful of health systems to implement eICU technology, the Provena eICU Connection is one of 43 eICUs of its kind in the country, which collectively monitor approximately 10 percent of ICU beds nation-wide and lead the way in innovative patient care....It's a revolutionary service that utilizes enhanced computer software and physiology monitoring technologies to get immediate critical care physician and nurse input about any change in a patient's condition....eICU technology adds to current bedside care by providing continuous monitoring of each adult ICU patient, allowing for more proactive plans of care.  Members of the eICU care team - including experienced critical care physicians (intensivists), critical care nurses, and data assistants - monitor all adult ICU patients via a remote site in Bolingbrook, IL.  If a patient's condition worsens or changes unexpectedly, the intensivist knows it immediately and can view the patient via remote video and quickly collaborate with the local care team. The eICU doesn't replace any critical care staff. Instead, it is an added layer of security for patients and their families. It offers the expertise of a physician who specializes in intensive care at the very moment trouble arises. And the service costs nothing more to the patient. All that is added is peace of mind. Research has shown that eICUs such as Provena's improve patient care by reducing complications, shortening length of stay in the ICU and saving lives. 

Here's a quote from the Philips web site , one of the companies providing the monitoring equipment and software that enables the eICUs to operate efficiently:

The eICU Program clinically transforms the ICU, using a proactive care model that provides a solution to growing physician and nurse shortages while dramatically improving quality of care. Through an ideal blend of medicine with technology, this care model leverages clinical expertise, patented processes, and cutting-edge technologies to improve critical care delivery.

So, in summary, the eICU is a flourishing example of critical care telemedicine. In the case of Provena Health, the hospitals comprising the system seem to be relatively small and located in smaller Illinois cities (Urbana, Aurora, Elgin, Joliet, Kankakee, and Danville). It's probably difficult for the health system to individually staff all of these facilities around-the-clock with skilled intensivists (see: The Emergence of the Proceduralist in Hospitals ). It thus makes sense to centrally monitor the ICU beds in all of these facilities and provide alerts to the on-site hospital personnel, and consult with them, when the status of a critical-care patient changes.

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