At several points during the COVID-19 pandemic, hospital intensive care units (ICUs) were filling up and critically ill patients were having difficulty getting treatment. This was due not only to the lack of bed space, but also to severe staffing shortages made worse when ICU physicians and nurses contracted the disease themselves. To ease the strain on ICU staff and to get patients out of ICU as soon as they no longer needed intensive services, many hospitals turned to ICU solutions such as tele-ICU. This technology essentially saved hospitals and patients during one of the most difficult times in recent memory.
Distancing Through Virtual Treatment
One of the most effective strategies for not contracting COVID-19 is keeping one’s distance from anyone who is showing signs of having the disease. Unfortunately for healthcare personnel, distancing themselves from COVID-19 patients isn’t usually an option. But, telehealth ICU solutions allow fewer people to come into contact with infected patients by delivering care remotely.
ICU physicians and critical care nurses are able to use technology to remotely monitor ICU patients, prescribe medications, consult with families, order tests, and more, all from a safe distance from the contaminated room. Of course, in-person caregivers are still necessary to carry out the remote physician’s orders, but rather than expose the entire staff to the illness, hospitals are able to limit the number of nurses or doctors who come into contact with these patients.
Timely Patient Discharging
When ICUs become overwhelmed, one of the biggest challenges is discharging patients in a timely manner when they no longer require intensive services. This is because in-person physicians and nurses are focused on the most critical patients and ensuring they receive the care they need. Discharge takes a backseat to required immediate care. With teleICU services, though, patients are carefully monitored at a central monitoring center, allowing off-site physicians to know when a patient is ready to be discharged, thereby opening up a bed for a new critically ill or injured patient.
Bed turnover is a vital component of overcrowded ICUs because these units are usually the only ones equipped with the necessary life-saving tools that critically ill or injured patients require. If a patient no longer needs these services, they are taking up a bed that another person badly needs. The timely discharge of non-critical patients to other units in the hospital relieves the burden on ICUs and their hardworking staff.
Monitoring Improves Patient Outcomes
Another positive element of teleICU systems is that remote physicians and nurses constantly monitor ICU patients. COVID-19 patients can take a sudden turn for the worse without warning, but through remote monitoring, subtle changes in their condition can be detected before they deteriorate too much, allowing in-person staff to take immediate measures to treat the patient.
Even though in-person caregivers have access to the same monitoring systems as the remote doctors and nurses do, they aren’t able to actively monitor patients as closely as the remote team can because of all their other duties. As such, patient outcomes can improve significantly thanks to the extra attention they get from teleICU physicians.
TeleICU services expanded quickly and widely when the pandemic hit, but now that hospitals, doctors, nurses, and patients have seen the positives of this technology, they are definitely here to stay.