In baseball, depth in the lineup provides access to the right set of skills to match the situation. The same can be said in health care where there is no such thing as too much experience, knowledge and skill.
Today, technology is providing physicians and nurses at Mount Desert Island Hospital with an expanded team to draw on when caring for the sickest patients in the intensive care unit. The Virtual ICU or eICU connects patients at MDI Hospital with specialist intensive care physicians and nurses at Eastern Maine Medical Center via a high definition video and data connection. “The virtual ICU is basically an added level of care for ICU patients using software and other electronic technology,” according to Tom Mockus, RN, MDI Hospital’s director of medical and rehabilitative services. “The team approach to care benefits our patients and staff.”
Physician Edward Gilmore, MD, who created the critical care program at MDI Hospital more than 30 years ago, says the connection with specialist nurses and physicians provides instant access to colleague consultations. “It is helpful for doctors to talk with other doctors,” Gilmore said, “Any of our ICU staff can talk with a specialist who already has information on the patient from day one, 24 hours a day.”
The system uses a secure, remotely operated video camera that enables doctors and nurses at EMMC to communicate with patients and their doctors and nurses here at MDI Hospital. The camera is precise enough to measure a patient’s pupils or read the label on medications being administered. In addition to the video system, the eICU will incorporate remote cardiac monitoring and the patient’s electronic medical record to provide instant access to the patient’s current status and medical history.
MDI Hospital’s role as a critical access hospital is to provide immediate care for the sickest patients and refer them to specialists at larger institutions when their condition requires it. The eICU expands on that role by connecting MDI Hospital directly with ICU specialists, known as intensivists. Research at the national level has shown that having access to these experts in intensive care can improve care quality and better patient outcomes. The eICU connection also extends beyond the technological link. The arrangement gives doctors and nurses here the opportunity to consult with a team of ICU specialists to establish the best course of action for the patient’s care.
At MDI Hospital, three eICU cameras are now connected for patients in intensive care. “The eICU is the future,” Mockus said. “By implementing this now we are getting ahead of the curve.”