You may have heard a lot about telemedicine in the last few years, especially as remote doctor visits increased dramatically during the pandemic. This technology allowed millions of patients to get the care they needed from a licensed physician without having to leave home. What you may not have heard about, though, is a similar concept called the eICU. This technology pairs eICU companies with intensive care units (ICUs) around the country to deliver remote care whenever and wherever it’s needed.
An eICU, also referred to as an electronic ICU, remote ICU, or tele ICU, is a type of telemedicine that makes use of cutting-edge technology to provide additional critical care services to ICUs. Each ICU room is equipped with video, audio, and high-tech vital sign monitoring equipment that allow board certified and licensed ICU physicians (intensivists) to monitor ICU patients from a remote location. This technology gives the remote physician all the tools necessary to assess patients and detect even the smallest change in condition.
Intensivists are specialists in caring for critically ill and injured patients; they’re just doing it from a control room instead of a patient’s room. If this seems odd, think about telemedicine as a whole. Doctors are able to diagnose and treat patients without seeing them in person based on reported symptoms and visual cues. They can even prescribe medication by video as well. An eICU does the same thing only with more critical patients.
Components of an eICU
While the concept of an eICU is fairly simple, the execution of one is not. To begin with an eICU requires a main information system that collects data from a range of sources and optimizes it to be usable by the remote intensivists. This is done so that the physician can see relationships between seemingly disparate data to get a full picture of a patient’s condition.
For example, the remote intensivist needs to see the data from the patient’s history, all vital signs monitoring equipment, physician and nurse notes, and more. Every caregiver who has provided a service to a patient, including nurses, therapists, pharmacists, physicians, and remote intensivists should have access to the same data at any given time and be able to update their notes in real-time.
eICUs should also be equipped with an early warning system that alerts the remote intensivist of a change in patient status or condition. This warning system allows the physician to respond to the change immediately by contacting in-person ICU personnel and visually assessing the patient. While all patients are typically reviewed at least once an hour by the eICU doctor, this warning system provides an additional layer of security for times when the ICUs are particularly busy.
Of course, all eICU systems must have the hardware in place to give all that technology someplace to go. Monitors are necessary to display the data and video conferencing software is required to allow remote doctors to visually assess and interact with patients. The ICU must also be equipped with microphones, telephones, and computers to facilitate the connection between the physical ICU and the remote physician.
Technology has given hospitals and patients a way to improve ICU care and solve many of the major issues facing the medical field today. But, it’s a rather involved system to initially set up because of all the intricate components that have to work together.