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Remote ICUs help ease growing U.S. caseload

Video Credit: Reuters - Politics
Published on September 14, 2020 - Duration: 02:13s

Remote ICUs help ease growing U.S. caseload

Sutter Health, a large hospital system in California, is among a growing number of institutions relying on remote ICUs to monitor and evaluate patients virtually, which helps to cope with an unrelenting COVID-19 caseload.

This report produced by Jillian Kitchener.

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Remote ICUs help ease growing U.S. caseload

"Hi, it's Dr. Walker.

I'm calling from the Sutter Health electronic ICU.

How are you doing today?” By clicking on a name and ringing a virtual doorbell, Dr. Vanessa Walker and her colleagues are able to speak to patients in 18 different intensive care units across a large hospital system in California.

She doesn’t have to leave her elaborate set-up in Sacramento to care for patients.

Their charts, scans and faces are right in front of her.

"So he's having a hard time talking.

Understood.

Yeah.

Save your breathe.

You're doing well otherwise.

We're happy to see you feeling better.” Sutter Health is among a growing number of hospitals relying on remote ICUs to cope with an unrelenting COVID-19 caseload.

Walker says she can get into a room very quickly with her electronic ICU set-up, talk to a nurse or patient, and recommend certain medications or treatments.

“We can talk to them.

We'll try to talk to them.

If not, then we can just examine them or evaluate them through the camera.

We review their charts, do admissions, basically go through and identify all the problems. If we see something that maybe the bedside has missed, we call them and let them know, 'hey, let's try this' or maybe, you know, 'consider this diagnosis.’" It’s estimated that 43 states face a shortage of highly-trained ICU doctors, according to researchers at George Washington University.

Telemedicine is one way to address that problem.

Studies have shown remote ICU services can spread the best medical practices backed by science and reduce complications for patients.

"The benefit of having an electronic ICU is that you have providers, nurses, everybody that sees the best practices throughout the whole system.

And when I see something done really well at this hospital, I want to be able to get it, you know, spread it throughout the entire system.” Patient safety advocates say sufficient staff at the bedside is still needed, and doctors shouldn’t monitor too many people remotely at once, which can lead to poor decision-making or even medical errors.

But Walker says her electronic system flags specific patients who need extra monitoring, helping out during an unprecedented time.

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