The goal of any unit in a hospital is to get a patient to leave the hospital either entirely well or well enough to continue healing at home or in a rehab facility without further complications. In particular, the goal of an ICU is to get a patient out of immediate danger of losing their life or limb and into a non-ICU bed on a condition-specific floor. Electronic ICU (eICU) programs can help improve ICU patient outcomes, giving patients and their families more peace of mind when they require an ICU stay.
The primary way in which remote ICUs improve patient outcomes is through round-the-clock patient monitoring. In traditional ICUs, patients are monitored to the best of the ICU staff’s ability, but this doesn’t always mean there’s a medical staff member available the minute a patient needs them. If an ICU is particularly busy, a patient might wait a while before they can be seen and even a small wait can be crucial to a patient’s condition.
A remote ICU, though, is able to monitor numerous ICU beds from a single location, so if a patient’s vitals indicate they need assistance right away, the intensivist monitoring that patient can respond immediately. They have the patient’s electronic health record at their fingertips and access to all their vitals so they can make informed decisions quickly that can save lives.
Medical errors happen, but they can be greatly minimized if staffing shortages and stresses can be addressed. An eICU not only helps hospitals with staffing issues, but it also removes a significant amount of pressure from in-person ICU staff members. If a hospital doesn’t have enough employees to run a fully-staffed ICU, they don’t have to rely on overworked nurses and intensivists to pick up the slack. With a remote ICU, a fully-qualified intensivist is available at any time of the day or night.
The remote physician also has access to every patient’s medical records through secure EMR software so that they always know everything they need to know before treating a patient. They will know what medications they’re on, what treatments they have responded to in the past, and every treatment or medication they’ve been given to treat their current condition. This consolidated database ensures that everyone treating the patient has the same information and is on the same page at all times.
Many hospitals don’t have the budget to hire a full-time night intensivist so ICU patients often have to wait until the day shift comes on to get the treatment they should have had overnight. With a remote ICU system, though, there is no wait. The in-person ICU nurse only has to contact the remote physician who is monitoring the ICU and discuss the patient’s need at the moment the need occurs. The remote physician can assess the patient, prescribe medication, or authorize a treatment to immediately address an issue.
Whether a hospital incorporates an eICU system in their ICU for staffing reasons or to decrease errors, it’s an investment in positive patient outcomes. Whenever more medical professionals are keeping their eyes on a patient, that patient gets better care, and remote ICUs give all hospitals more eyes for better outcomes.