TeleICUs are a way to address the national shortage of intensives physicians and critical care nurses. Research has shown that intensivist staffing reduces the ICU patients’ risk of death by 40%. TeleICUs are not a means to replace bedside staff but rather provide additional support to ensure the best possible outcomes for patients.
How does the TeleICU program work?
Based in an off-site center, the TeleICU is staffed by a team of experts. Critical care doctors and nurses observe and communicate with patients and the bedside care teams at multiple locations through use of advanced technology. Information such as patient's heart rate and blood pressure, blood test results, patient's medication list, and x-rays can be sent to the TeleICU staff via confidential, high-speed data lines. With the aid of computers, the TeleICU staffs monitors and analyzes information and are alerted to possible problems.
How are clinical decisions about patient care determined?
The patient's bedside doctor and the TeleICU doctor generally collaborate together to make the final decisions regarding the care of the patient. Ultimately it is the bedside provider who determines if they should order the recommended orders given by the TeleICU doctor. Due to the fact that the patient's primary doctor and the TeleICU doctor discuss the medical status and treatment plans daily, the TeleICU doctor may modify treatment according to the primary doctor's plan of care when he or she is not present in the ICU.
Why are cameras necessary?
To provide the best possible care, it is important for the TeleICU doctors and nurses to be able to observe a patient when needed. To ensure privacy, cameras are turned off except when needed to check on the patient status or deliver care. When a camera is turned off, it faces the wall. When the camera is turned on, it moves to face the patient and a green light signals that it is active.
How Can One be sure that Private Information is Protected?
Several measures ensure that health information is kept confidential, including:
- Access to patient information is strictly limited to those with hospital authorization so a patient's health information is not released to anyone other than those providing direct medical care
- No recordings are made from any camera or microphone in the patient rooms
- Any information sent to or from the TeleICU is sent by private data lines. Any information sent through these data lines is scrambled, or encrypted, until it reaches either the TeleICU center or the hospital. It is then available for viewing by physicians or nurses. Information is not sent over the Internet.
- Physicians working at the TeleICU use a secure personal identification number as an authorized electronic signature when ordering treatments. These numbers are private and change regularly to ensure security.
- The TeleICU itself is secured and can be accessed only by TeleICU personnel