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Telemedicine Is Proving Its Worth In Intensive Care "Tele-ICU's"

Telemedicine is changing the way patient care is provided in all specialties, but is making particularly great strides in a growing number of intensive care units (ICUs) across the country, according to an article published earlier this year in the American Journal of Critical Care (AJCC).

Tele-ICU” refers to a remotely-based critical care team that works with a bedside ICU team and patient via state-of-the-art audio/visual communication and computer systems, according to an online CE course from the American Association of Critical Care Nursing (AACN).

the U.S. has approximately 45 tele-ICUs with monitoring capacity for more than 6,000 patients at more than 200 hospitals, impacting care for an estimated 12 percent of ICU patients in the country,” as noted by the article authors.

The authors surveyed 1,213 nurses from across the country, who work with critical care patients and who feel telemedicine is a key element of improving patient access and quality of care. Intensivist-led tele-ICU teams employ medical professionals of all levels, including doctors, nurse practitioners, nurses, and data specialists in around-the-clock care that assists bedside teams and provides quality critical care.

Tele-ICUs contribute to the care of the sickest patients by providing enhanced monitoring capabilities – or a ‘second set of eyes’ - for patients in critical and progressive care units,” said Connie Barden RN, MSN, CCRN-E, CCNS, chief clinical officer of the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses.

Funded with an Impact Research Grant from the AACN, the study showed that of the participating nurses, nearly 1,000 of them currently practice in tele-ICUs, interfacing from remote monitoring sites with 16,000 other staff nurses who are at the bedside.

One of those, Lisa-Mae Williams MSN, RN, the operations director of the Telehealth & eICU at Baptist Health South Florida in Miami, Fla., shared some insight into her experience working in a tele-ICU:

The opportunity to leverage technology with clinical expertise to enhance patient care and outcomes is what drew me to telemedicine,” said Williams. “In my current role I get to see the full value of providing access to critical care expertise along the continuum of care.”

Participants of the AJCC study rated nurse critical thinking skills, ICU experience, skillful communication, mutual respect and emergency patient care management as the most important skills and characteristics that a medical professional must have in order to be successful working in a tele-ICU.

I learned that constant communication coupled with finding opportunities to share in successful outcomes has helped to build a strong collaborative between the tele-ICU and bedside teams.

Surveyed nurses noted that key benefits of tele-ICUs include increased efficacy in monitoring trends of vital signs, detecting unstable physiological status, providing medical management, enhancing patient safety, detecting arrhythmias, preventing self-extubation and preventing falls.

[...] remote consults by a specialist result in getting the right care to the patient in a timely manner. Besides being an efficient way of delivering care it may also help to keep the patient in their local area rather than needing a transfer for care hundreds of miles away.

Tele-ICUs are especially advantageous for areas of the country where there is a shortage of healthcare workers, such as rural settings.

[...] it can save money and keep the patient with their family – a win-win solution for everyone.” added Barden.

Aptly named, Enclothed Cognition is the official Medelita blog for medical professionals interested in topics relevant to a discerning and inquisitive audience. Medelita was founded by a licensed clinician who felt strongly about the connection between focus, poise and appearance.