An innovative telemedicine program in Salt Lake City, Utah is improving outcomes for acutely ill patients in several remote communities in the United States. With the aid of an audio-visual application based on Microsoft’s Skype for Business, critical care staff “examine” patients, speak with family members and consult with care providers at community hospitals that have no intensivist on staff.
The results of the program have been gratifying, to say the least. According to William Beninati, M.D., of Intermountain Healthcare in Salt Lake City, which began the pilot program in 2014, “One year after we started our telecritical care program for community hospitals caring for acutely ill patients, mortality rates in the intensive care units and in the hospital were both decreased by almost 40 percent.”
Intermountain is an integrated healthcare system of seven community hospitals located in rural areas of Utah and southern Idaho. It also supports several small acute care hospitals that have no ICU beds.
24/7 Telemedicine Support
The pilot program began in May 2014, providing remote-access, 24-hour critical care nursing support to Intermountain hospitals. By August, it had added a daytime intensivist, and in December it began offering 24/7 medical and nursing support.
The communication software is housed in a warehouse in Salt Lake City, where critical care doctors and nurses “visit” up to 160 acutely ill patients each day. The staff has access to each patient’s’ electronic health record, lab tests and x-rays as well as real-time EKGs, pulse oximetry and vital signs.
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