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MaineHealth News

2005 Press Releases


MaineHealth introduces remote intensive care monitoring to Maine
Maine Medical Center to be first operational location

MaineHealth announced today the acquisition of a new remote monitoring system that will help doctors and nurses improve care, save lives, and lower costs in intensive care units throughout the state. The VISICU eICU allows remote monitoring of patients in multiple locations, from a central station staffed by intensive care physicians and nurses. The system will be deployed first at Maine Medical Center, then at other MaineHealth affiliated hospitals. It also will be available to hospitals outside the system after MaineHealth implementation is complete.

This is the first installation of the VISICU eICU in New England, and only the 17th in the country. Other users include OhioHealth, Tripler Army Medical Center, and the University of Pennsylvania Health System.

“The sickest and most vulnerable patients in a hospital are in its intensive care unit,” says Robert McArtor, MD, Chief Medical Officer at MaineHealth. “The potential for error and its consequences are very high. The eICU enables a board-certified intensive care specialist to be involved in the care of a patient hundreds of miles away, in real time. This new system of care will allow all MaineHealth hospitals to consistently offer their sickest patients high quality care.”

The eICU does not replace local physicians, but it does give them the benefit of having specialist physicians and trained intensive care nurses “watching” their patients – quite literally at times: the eICU features audio and video connections to each patient room, as well as continuous monitoring and tracking of patient conditions. It allows for the display of trended information in real time, and uses visual alerts to announce any problematic change in the patient’s condition.

The VISICU eICU product was implemented at Norfolk, Virginia’s Sentara Norfolk General Hospital in 2001, and an outside audit of the first six months of operation found that it:
• Reduced mortality by 25%.
• Decreased length-of-stay by 17%.
• Increased intensive care unit capacity by 20% as a result of shorter length of stay.
• Reduced costs by 26%.

“These kind of results are very impressive,” says Bill Caron, President of MaineHealth. “This very expensive technology has been implemented in some of the best hospitals in the nation, and the savings in lives and ultimately in dollars make it an important investment. It’s the kind of service that is possible only because we have forward-thinking clinical and administrative leadership, and one of the finest tertiary care hospitals in the country from which to build the system.”

The involvement of intensivist physicians in the management of intensive care unit patients is so important that it was one of the first four standards promulgated by The Leapfrog Group. In order to meet minimum Leapfrog standards, a hospital’s intensive care unit must be staffed with intensivists. Leapfrog has formally recognized the eICU as meeting that standard.

“This will be like standing in the doorway of the patient’s room,” says MMC Chief of Critical Care Medicine Sandra Bagwell, MD. “The only thing we can’t do with this system is physically touch the patient. Even here in the intensive care unit, where there are intensivists present 24/7, the eICU will be invaluable. There are 42 beds in our Special Care Units, and if a physician is giving his or her full attention to a patient having serious problems, they will know that the other 41 patients are still being carefully monitored. If a serious problem develops with one of them, someone will be able to respond instantly.”

The intensivist physicians and nurses working in the eICU central station have the benefit of an extensive clinical decision support system from VISICU. The system compiles and provides the latest clinical information on any situation that might arise in the intensive care unit, including “best practice” treatment guidelines and links to the latest medical literature. Other portions of the VISICU product allow for powerful data retrieval, report generation, and information for quality management projects.

“An important benefit of the eICU is the educational opportunity it will provide,” Dr. Bagwell says. “Staffing opportunities at the eICU will be open to any intensivist or intensive care nurse from participating hospitals. The opportunity to rotate through will provide someone from a smaller hospital with exposure to more, and more complex, cases than they would normally see. The result will be an improvement in their skills and confidence.”

The eICU will be rolled out at MMC this October. Lined up for implementation over the following year are St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center in Lewiston, Miles Memorial Hospital in Damariscotta, and MaineGeneral Medical Center in Augusta and Waterville. Southern Maine Medical Center in Biddeford participated in the original program evaluation and is taking part in overseeing the system-wide implementation, while they are in the final stages of their internal decision-making. This first phase will total about 100 monitored beds.



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