Here’s an example of a form of telemedicine which is becoming highly popular in hospital ICUs. eICU technology, in which critical care experts provide expertise remotely through a central hub, allowing hospitals to have 24 hour a day support in their ICU whether it’s down the street or across the country.
In Arkansas, Baptist Medical Health Center-Little Rock, eICU technology is in place within a building on the campus, reports Healthcare Informatics magazine.
The eICU acts as an air traffic control center, giving the ICU staff extra set of eyes and ears to monitor patients, according Vicki Norman, R.N., director of eICU care at Baptist Health, which includes eight Arkansas medical centers.
Not only does the eICU support the ICUs within the Baptist Health system, it also has eICU care contracts with 20 hospitals and 223 beds across two states; seven of the 20 hospitals are part of the Baptist Health system.
With patients being monitored by two-way video and “cockpit like sensors,” eICU staff can detect even the slightest change in the patient’s condition, and let the bedside staff know very quickly when the problems arise.
According to Norman, the eICU center includes a staff of 15 critical care physicians and 25 critical care nurses in the control center, whom, Norman says, has an average of 20 to 25 years of experience, reports Healthcare Informatics.
The central element to the eICU control center is software from Phillips which allow doctor and nurse teams to monitor every critical care patients simultaneously. The software’s Smart Alert automated monitoring and notification system constantly analyzes data on patients to pick up problems long before they might be noticed by local personnel on the ground in the ICU.
According to Baptist health leaders, studies of healthcare systems that have implemented an eICU control center short 27 percent reduction in mortality rates in a 17 percent cut in length of stay, largely because eICU monitoring allows clinical staff to intervene with patience as needed far more quickly. Other data suggests that patient time spent on ventilators also falls when the eICU is used.
Baptist’s experience aside, it looks like the eICU has a bright future, as it seems to be able to achieve positive clinical results that lessen the sting of the expense. For example, a recent study published in CHEST Journal concluded that hospitals can boost patient survival rates and speed ICU and discharge rates if they use tele-ICU technologies.