The use of remote monitoring systems in intensive care units could help hospitals address a growing shortage of intensivists and critical care specialists, the Wall Street Journal reports.
eICU systems let doctors remotely monitor patients through two-way video cameras and software that tracks patients' vital signs and instantly identifies any changes in lab test results or physical conditions.
On average, such systems cost $4 million to $5 million to install and $2 million annually to staff and maintain.
Hospitals See Benefits
Many hospitals with eICU systems say their investment has led to reduced costs, mortality and length of stay.
University of Massachusetts Medical Center Director Craig Lilly said that a study of 6,400 patients in seven adult ICUs monitored by an eICU system found significant benefits in reducing costs and mortality. He said that after factoring in the costs of the eICU system, the hospital saved $5,000 per case.
Lilly now is working on a New England Healthcare Institute-funded study of the benefits of remote monitoring for community hospitals.
St. Mary's Hospital in Jefferson County, Mo., said that outsourcing electronic monitoring of its ICU to Advanced ICU Care has reduced patients' length of stay. Therefore, the hospital was able to accept more patients and increase its revenue by $1.2 million in the first two years.
Wendy Everett, president of the New England Healthcare Institute, noted that resistance to remote monitoring remains.
Medical directors at some large hospitals interviewed by her group said they were not looking at the technology because they did not think there was room for improvement in their ICUs, according to Everett.
In addition, intensivists who work in eICUs said they cannot be effective if bedside health care providers are not willing to take advice from the remote monitors (Landro, Wall Street Journal, 10/27).