As mentioned in my last post, telemedicine holds a specific role in health care, and is often considered to be for patients who are unable to get to a primary care provider or that do not need to go to an ER or Urgent Care. However, a more recent adaptation for telemedicine is the use of remote intensive care unit (ICU) coverage by intensivists.
Having a constant critical care specialist presence in the ICU versus an on-demand specialist has been shown to decrease mortality, decrease length of stay, and increase patient/family satisfaction. Unfortunately, many hospitals are unable to fully staff ICUs for a variety of reasons (low patient volume, shortage of intensivist specialists, etc.) As a result studies have been conducted to test the effectiveness of using telemedicine as a feasible substitute for a constant presence in the ICU setting.
A meta-analysis of several studies on the use of telemedicine in the ICU setting showed lower overall mortality and shorter lengths of stays. Of the more comprehensive telemedicine ICU program implementations, teams of physicians, mid-levels, and nurses work together to monitor hemodynamic factors and vital signs, order laboratory and radiographic studies, and order preventative treatments and medications.
Estimates show that more consistent ICU staffing could save 50,000 lives and $4.3 billion dollars every year. Who knew that our solution for better outcomes and lower costs in intensive care units could be found with an iCU!