How electronic intensive care units save lives
Command centers and video technology are changing the way care is being delivered in intensive care units. Electronic intensive care units (eICUs) have added an additional layer of safety to create a more seamless patient experience.
Intensive care is the area of the hospital reserved for the sickest or most seriously injured patients. In this unit, patients are observed around the clock by a team of highly trained physicians, nurses and intensivists (physicians who specialize in critical-care patients).
The issue many hospitals face, particularly smaller or rural facilities, is that there aren’t enough intensivists to go around. This can put a strain on hospitals and particularly on intensivists, who face the highest burnout rate of all medical professionals, according to a Medscape survey.
The eICU concept helps alleviate this problem by connecting patients to intensivists at a remote location via video technology (think FaceTime or Skype). However, an eICU is different from FaceTime because it also connects a patient’s electronic information such as their charts and vitals in real time. This allows patients to be monitored remotely and have experts partner with hospitals to provide immediate consultations, if necessary.
“This technology allows us to leverage the knowledge of supporting staff at a central command center so that quicker care can be provided on a 24-hour basis,” says Dr. Chae Chu, pulmonologist and intensivist at Advocate BroMenn Medical Center in Normal, Ill.
The eICU comes in particularly handy overnight, when many intensivists have gone home for the day. The eICU cuts down on the number of emergency phone calls an intensivist receives in the middle of the night. It’s also extremely beneficial to newer nurses on night shift who may want a second opinion.
“This is beneficial to patients as well,” says Dr. Chu. “Patients can equate the eICU to a home security system where they are monitored remotely as a precaution to ensure no harm comes to them.”
Patients concerned about privacy shouldn’t worry, Dr. Chu explains. The cameras are shut off by default and are only turned on when the remote location detects something out of the ordinary from their electronic readings. When that happens, they can alert a nurse on site to the situation immediately, resolving issues much quicker.
“Having an extra set of eyes and an extra set of knowledge to bring to the patient certainly accomplishes the goal of improving patient safety,” Dr. Chu says.
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