The coronavirus pandemic has really opened up everyone’s eyes to the unique benefits of telehealth and telemedicine and the healthcare industry is slowly but surely adopting the “doing more with less” mindset. This cost-effective, remote way of delivering health services to all types of locations and patients has proven to be advantageous for all parties involved, even more so in these uncertain times. Since Covid-19 has already caused a shortage of beds in most hospitals, patients and doctors both have become more hesitant about checking ICU patients into hospitals.
What Is Tele-ICU?
Tele-ICU, also called eICU, is a diagnosis and treatment method that makes use of videoconferencing and internet technology to provide remote intensive care services to patients. It makes it possible for patients and critical care specialists in the ICU to be face-to-face within minutes and for at-risk individuals to receive medical attention easily and quickly.
An integral part of tele-ICU, as well as acute care telemedicine, are medical professionals called intensivists, who specialize in critical and unstable patients with an unforeseeable and complicated medical prognosis.
How Does Tele-ICU Work?
Most tele-ICU programs have command centers that are staffed with critical care nurses and intensivists who aid patients electronically either with the help of audio connections or videoconferencing. This allows healthcare professionals to get patient data in real-time and resolve issues as soon as they arise. This way of delivering intensive care has greatly empowered busy hospital staff and minimized their exposure to the virus, keeping them protected and healthy and therefore ready to deal with increasing numbers of patients.
In rural areas, where medical attention would otherwise be a distant possibility, tele-ICU has become a powerful way to augment limited resources and use them to save lives every day.
Tele-ICU services offer virtual consultations with intensive care health experts for the management of patients with ventilator management issues, cardiovascular instability or chronic renal failure, among other things.
It offers patients flexible, round-the-clock access to critical care specialists. Apart from consultations and management of acute patients, there are also daily rounds where intensivists help guide daily activities and plans for tele-ICU patients.
Advantages of Telemedicine in Intensive Care Units
There are significant benefits of telemedicine in general but particularly in the case of ICUs, one of the biggest benefits is that people in remote locations are more easily reached and attended to. Back when telemedicine didn’t exist, people from remote areas had to struggle to gather enough funds to first travel and then receive medical attention. For most people, this was not a possibility. Some may have even perished before reaching bigger cities to receive care.
Another advantage is that a far greater number of patients can receive medical attention from intensivists and multispecialty physicians from different locations 24/7, who can help deliver advanced critical care for quicker recoveries and generally better health outcomes. In normal circumstances, these certified intensivists would not be able to provide their patients with the kind of undivided attention and care they can provide through tele-ICU.
Intensivists are generally very experienced in diagnosing how critical a patient’s condition is, which is helped greatly by access to vital information that is provided through the current technology used in tele-ICU equipment. This helps dramatically reduce ICU complications. They are also extremely well-versed and experienced in different kinds of critical care like pediatric critical care or pulmonary critical care.
Tele-ICU solutions can also massively reduce the cost of providing healthcare to those in need. As a result, hospitals can have much better revenue streams by simply monitoring critically ill patients with a network of remote intensivists and critical care teams. So, not only does telemedicine help doctors reach more patients, but it also saves the hospital money. And the savings are considerable.
Tele-ICU Can Even Reduce Patient Complications
The longer patients are in an ICU, the greater their likelihood of developing complications. By monitoring ICU patients remotely, most of these complications can be avoided and according to a study, it was concluded that tele-ICUs can help reduce mortality rates by an average of 29%. The research in this study also showed that patients’ length of stay was reduced by a third when tele-ICU was used, which means that there are more beds for the critically or terminally ill.
Cutting-Edge Tele-ICU Technology
With the right visual tools, it becomes very easy for doctors to monitor patients no matter the distance between them. This can be done round the clock and from any location. Audio and video conferencing in addition to streams of real-time patient data from multiple interfaces make the doctor’s job much easier. Even though the intensivist is already engaged with the patient, this constant connectivity allows him or her to quickly intervene and provide care consistently if a problem ever arises.
The entire concept of tele-ICU services began from trying to maximize medical resources because the demand for medical services and care is often higher than the supply. This can be seen with the current pandemic. Hospital beds were completely filled during the peak times when the cases numbered the highest. Since there has been such an increase in ICU usage and several clinical studies have supported tele-ICU, citing its financial and medical benefits, more hospitals are starting to invest in tele-ICU technology.
The streams of patient data that are captured by tele-ICU programs can also be used to optimize health systems by taking more evidence-based approaches in the future.
How Does Tele-ICU Improve Quality of Care Provided?
When it comes to managing diseases, tele-ICU can help intensivists perform acute interventions and keep an eye on all patients using surveillance for a more proactive form of care. It also caters to different patients’ individual needs. Since healthcare professionals can be located anywhere to provide care to patients, most patients end up receiving the best of the best treatment, which then greatly helps them with their recovery.
To learn more about tele-ICU, visit our page and find out how it can benefit you.