An indicator of quality healthcare in ICUs (intensive care units) is the availability of intensivists (critical care physicians) in the unit. There is a strong indication that staffing of ICUs by intensivists can lead to better patient management. This approach has been advocated and endorsed by different high-profile private and public partnerships.  

Nonetheless, healthcare facilities’ adoption and implementation of the model has been a challenge because of various aspects, including a shortage of medics trained in critical care medicine. Retaining or recruiting the professionals is particularly a problem for smaller hospitals in rural areas, including small facilities within the VA (Veteran Health Administration).  

To try and overcome understaffing in critical care departments, most hospitals are installing remoteICU systems. The system essentially blends high-speed internet video conferencing with an EMR(electronic medical record) to link patients and clinical care teams at the remote ICU to nurses and intensivist physicians at a CMC( central monitoring center).  

Utilizing this technology allows one or two intensivists to monitor more than two hundred patients at ago distributed across various physical ICUs. This approach has also been associated with a 50% reduction in ICU mortality and a 30% reduction in-hospital mortality. 

New Standard in Patient Monitoring 

As mentioned earlier, shortage of staff and data integrity issues, the idea of a centralized virtual ICU that combines high-quality telemedicine technology and real-time clinical surveillance features offers a great solution to various challenges associated with managing ICU patients.  

The system normally includes a two-way video chat that connects critically ill patients with clinicians. Unlike in a traditional ICU, a patient can be thousands of miles away from the physician in a remote ICU. To help doctors monitor patients, the system has high-definition cameras that can tilt, zoom and pan throughout the room.  

With a virtual ICU, medics can utilize technology to evaluate data, merge physiological parameters such as lab results and vital signs with a patient’s EMR information to determine deterioration or improvement and then take appropriate action.  

Similarly, a remote ICU can be used in various settings, including general wards, ED, and ICU, analyzing data from various devices and systems and providing real-time monitoring of any abnormal values or trends in laboratory tests, vital signs, or other clinical data. 

Investigations have also shown the role remote ICUs can play in enhancing patient outcomes. A 2014 HIMSS study that compared the length of stay in different studies of tele-ICU indicated that remote ICUs resulted in improved patient outcomes, particularly stay lengths( reduce from 6.9 days to 4.2 days), and secondary outcomes such as hospital mortality and ICU mortality also reduce because of tele-ICU use.  

Also, an ICU bed costs around $2 million, which is very expensive. The new shift allows care for the growing populations without necessarily building and equipping new beds, hence helping hospitals operate in a value-based healthcare environment. 

The limitations  

Though remote ICUs are cheaper than face-to-face ICUs, time and money still present challenges. Remote ICUs can be expensive and may take several days to fully install. That is not conducive for COVID patients in coronavirus hotspots.  

The future of ICU 

That notwithstanding, utilization of the second pair of eyes is expected to surge considerably. This assertion is encouraged by studies showing:  

  • Better patient outcomes 
  • Cost savings 
  • Reduce ICU stays 

A report by Global Market shows that the market will reach $5 billion by the end of 2023. That rise will be propelled by an increase in chronic conditions such as neurological disorders, cancer as well as aging populations.