A carefully planned implementation of tele-ICU went live in January at Parkland Health Center. Also called “e-ICU,” this groundbreaking technology is another leap forward in rural health care, connecting doctors and nurses in Parkland’s intensive care unit (ICU) directly to critical care nurses and physicians from Washington University and Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis.
How does it work? When a patient is transferred from the emergency department to the ICU, there is now an immediate consultation between the local providers and the tele-ICU team in St. Louis -- using advanced technology such as high-resolution cameras and a special monitor. Six of Parkland’s ten ICU rooms are fitted with the new technology, with an additional mobile unit available.
“All ICU patients will have an e-ICU consultation,” said Cindy Wampler, RN, nurse manager of Parkland’s ICU. “The hospitalist and ICU nurses will still provide the care, but they now consult with the e-ICU team. It’s like having an extra set of expert eyes on each patient.”
Highlights of the new technology include:
- The cameras are so refined, the e-ICU team in St. Louis can see the pupils of the patient’s eyes, read the patient’s wristband or even the numbers on the bag of IV medication.
- The specialist can “doorbell in” to see and talk to the patient at any time.
- While the patient is sleeping, the specialist can quietly observe the patient via infrared camera technology.
- The nurses and hospitalists at Parkland can push a button on the wall to call in for a live consultation at any time.
According to Soubhi Bahna, MD, medical director of hospitalist services at Parkland, tele-ICU is a great solution for a hospital Parkland's size. “It gives our hospitalists and ICU nurses immediate access to expert support using state-of-the-art technology, allowing us to comfortably co-manage sicker ICU patients so they can stay local. Since it went live, it has allowed us to keep sicker patients close to home and family,” he says.
While the tele-ICU enables Parkland to keep many patients closer to home, when a patient does need to be transferred, it’s a quicker, smoother process because the St. Louis critical care team is already involved.
"Tele-ICU has been working very well with excellent outcomes," says Dr. Bahna. "We will continue to provide excellent care with great compassion, while keeping patient safety as our top priority."