April 29, 2008 - Six hospitals serving patients in rural Maryland announced plans today to improve patient care by implementing the VISICU eICU remote monitoring telemedicine program in each of their intensive care units.
Made possible by a $3 million grant from CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield (CareFirst), the eICU Program marries medicine and technology to bring critical care physicians, also known as intensivists, to areas facing a shortage in this specialty.
Studies have shown improved patient outcomes and decreased lengths of stay for patients in intensive care units (ICU) managed by critical care physicians. Yet many hospitals, especially those in rural America, do not have the resources to keep these kinds of physicians on site 24 hours a day.
The six hospitals, known collectively as Maryland eCare, united two years ago to find a solution to the critical care physician shortage. It is the largest collaboration of independent hospitals in the country – and the only such partnership in the state of Maryland – to establish this model of care for its patients.
“Bringing this technology to rural Maryland means patients and families will have better care close to home,” said Dr. Marc T. Zubrow, medical director of Maryland eCare and director of critical care medicine at Christiana Care Health System (Wilmington, DE) which houses its own eICU program. “This program enables us to act quickly and prevent complications. It leads to improved patient outcomes, getting patients home with their families more quickly and more safely.”
In the ICU, patient conditions can change very quickly. Complementing local ICU care, eICU critical care physicians and nurses based at Christiana Care’s eICU monitoring center closely watch patient conditions 24/7 remotely, through video and audio technology combined with intelligent monitoring and alarm systems. While maintaining patient privacy, the eICU’s remote center closely monitors patients for any physical change, immediately alerting local caregivers and recommending corrective action.
“In addition to patient care, safety and satisfaction, the eICU Program provides ICU nurses with immediate access to a critical care physician during off hours,” said Dr. Zubrow. “This reduces stress and improves nurse retention in this very intense environment. Also, it improves physician satisfaction and lifestyle as it allows for fewer sleep interruptions. Sleep deprived physicians tend to be more fatigued, less productive, and prone to errors.”
Participating hospitals include Atlantic General Hospital, Berlin; Calvert Memorial Hospital, Prince Frederick; Civista Medical Center, LaPlata; Peninsula Regional Medical Center, Salisbury; St. Mary’s Hospital, Leonardtown; and Washington County Health System, Hagerstown, which collectively admit more than 66,000 patients every year.
The eICU Program was developed by VISICU (a Philips company) by two former Johns Hopkins critical care physicians and is being utilized in more than 200 hospitals across the country.
For more information: www.visicu.com