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Each year, more than five million patients are admitted to intensive care units (ICU) across the United States. As the number of patients requiring ICU admission increases, hospitals are facing a shortage of staff with the correct qualifications to provide high-quality care. Studies have shown that intensivist-led ICUs have better outcomes than those staffed by doctors who are not specialized in the management of critically ill patients. But finding these highly trained staff – especially in rural or less populous areas – is often enormously challenging.
Advanced technology is paving the way for a solution to this problem through the provision of telemedicine services. However, many hospital administrators are reluctant to adopt these services due to fears about the quality of care, negative outcomes, high costs, potential for technical failures, and more.
This article provides more information about Tele ICU services for hospitals and addresses some of the main concerns regarding them.
What is a TeleICU?
Also called eICU (electronic intensive care unit), remote ICU, and virtual ICU, it is a service available to hospitals whereby a technology platform allows for specialized intensivists situated outside the hospital grounds (and even in another country) to provide high-quality remote care to ICU patients.
Remote intensivist physicians gain full access via the technology platform to all the data they need in order to provide competent patient care. This information includes vital signs, lab test results, and current treatment information. Technologies provided by the platform can include high-resolution cameras, microphones, and designated software platforms.
The Tele ICU market has grown rapidly in recent years, with different Tele ICU companies providing slightly different services and offerings. In general, one can expect a Tele ICU company to provide highly-skilled intensive care physicians and to organize the necessary credentials which facilitate their becoming permanent members of their hospital staff. One can also expect the Tele ICU company’s IT specialists to coordinate with their hospital’s IT team and to oversee all the necessary technical arrangements.
What are the advantages of using a Tele ICU company?
The main benefits of using a Tele ICU service in a hospital setting include:
- 24/7 Monitoring – Physician coverage during off-peak times improves the quality of care and allows for timely interventions, which can prevent complications.
- Increased Efficiency – Each physician can monitor and treat more patients, thereby conserving resources and improving overall ICU workflow.
- Improved Outcomes – As previously mentioned, studies have shown that Tele ICU services can reduce mortality rates, decrease ICU length of stay, and reduce complications.
- Expertise and Collaboration – Tele ICU services allow hospitals to leverage the expertise of critical care specialists who are not physically present in the hospital.
- Cost Savings – While there will be an initial outlay for the implementation of s Tele ICU service, in the long term, one can expect significant cost savings due to optimized resource utilization, reduced complications, and shortened ICU length of stay. RemoteICU offers a solution with a minimal financial outlay.
Can Tele ICU physicians replace onsite staff?
Research byThe Leapfrog Group (a US non-profit and healthcare industry watchdog with the goal of raising the bar for safer healthcare) suggests that the use of telemedicine intensivists can reduce ICU mortality by 15-30%. However, the report also suggests that mortality is even lower when on-site intensivists are also present. The practical implication of this is that Tele ICU staff should never completely replace on-site physicians when and where they are available. However, even when there are on-site intensivists, tele-intensivists can and should provide vital supplementary support at times of day and night that are difficult to staff with on-site providers. Remote Intensivists can provide expertise, specialist skills, and experience that on-site, non-intensivist physicians might lack.
What services can Tele ICU physicians supply?
Tele-intensivists can perform many routine and advanced ICU tasks – such as monitor blood sugars, provide electrolyte replacements, and consult with the families of patients – in much the same way as an on-site physician.
Can Tele ICU assist with adherence to recommended standards??
For the telemedicine space, the Leapfrog Group recommends using the IPS Standard.
Hospitals meeting the IPS standard assure, among other things, that physicians certified in critical care medicine manage or co-manage all critical care patients in adult and pediatric general medical and/or surgical ICUs and neuro ICUs. Additionally, the standard requires that one or more intensivists ordinarily be present on-site in each ICU for at least 8 hours per day (usually daytime), 7 days per week, or are present via telemedicine, in combination with on-site intensivist coverage, for a total of 24 hours per day, 7 days per week.
Read more about the IPS standard here.
How can a Tele ICU service help improve patient outcomes?
Telemedicine allows for the continuous availability of highly-trained staff. This has been proven in numerous studies to lead to improvements in care standardization in hospitals, decreases in ICU and hospital mortality, and decreases in ICU length of stay.
Additionally, the Leapfrog Group credits Tele ICU services with helping hospitals significantly improve the quality of inpatient care and ensure that there are no periods of time where intensivist expertise is unavailable to an ICU. Specifically, Tele ICUs help hospitals comply with the Leapfrog Hospital Safety Grade and receive a high-performance ranking, which demonstrates their commitment to patient safety and favorable outcomes.
How can using a Tele ICU company help hospitals reduce costs and/ or boost revenue?
Today’s ICUs are under increasing pressure to achieve better outcomes at lower costs, despite significant shortages of intensivists and ICU-specialized staff. Employing Remote ICU services in hospitals can reduce and streamline costs and enhance revenues.
Having a centralized remote patient monitoring center allows healthcare providers to consolidate and standardize care while reducing inter-hospital transfers, maximizing bed utilization, and supporting on-site staff.
Additionally, industry surveys and reports have shown that the ability to cost-effectively staff an ICU 24/7 with a combination of remote and on-site intensivists significantly reduces intensivist stress and burn-out and consequently, reduces ICU staff turnover and the heavy costs associated with onboarding new staff.Tele ICU services, by decreasing ICU length of stay and hence potentially decreasing average ICU census, may obviate the need to add ICU beds.
RemoteICU is one of the world’s largest telemedicine groups and is a leading provider of remote specialist physician services for hospitals across the United States thus enabling them to provide their patients with high-quality critical care.