How COVID-19 is spurring the move to virtual care
A tele-ICU or eICU enables a co-located team of intensivists and critical care nurses to remotely monitor patients in the ICU regardless of patient location. Intensivists and nurses based in a telehealth eICU hub are supported by high-definition cameras, telemetry, predictive analytics, data visualization and advanced reporting capabilities in order to support their frontline colleagues. Algorithms alert to signs of patient deterioration or improvement. They help care teams to proactively intervene at an earlier stage or to decide which patients have stabilized and can be transferred, allowing scarce ICU beds to be allocated to more acute patients. The tele-ICU can be embedded in a larger Clinical and Operations Center that prioritizes patients on acuity and optimizes the patient flow and logistics.
Solutions like these enable more COVID-19 patients to receive care. As we speak, we are helping hospitals with installed eICUs to expand their reach and exchange important information about COVID-19 indicators and protocols. We are supporting others to expand the reach of their ICUs into other settings. Northwell Health recently gave a webinar, during which its clinicians shared their experiences of using their eICU for patients with COVID-19.
Advanced telemetry and camera technologies hold out the promise of monitoring acute patients at scale. In the near future, you can expect image analysis software that measures an ICU patient’s temperature, heart rate and respiration rate from a distance of several meters. Using existing patient monitoring solutions, AI is already able to use the acquired data to predict when a patient’s condition is about to deteriorate, hours before a nurse would be able to spot it. And when patients do deteriorate, secure connections to external clinical experts allow appropriate treatment plans to be initiated. When there are staff shortages, such as reduced availability of night-shift staff, monitoring can be done from remote locations, even halfway across the world where people are wide awake. We are already deploying vital signs camera technology to detect deterioration in patients waiting in emergency department waiting rooms so they can receive quick attention.
The remote monitoring approach can also be extended to the home, with smart wearables tracking patients who are infected or at risk of infection. These wearables, like a smart patch, can measure body temperature, respiration rate and heart rate, monitor sleep and detect falls. All these measurements can be combined with contextual and behavioral information about the patient to keep them as safe as possible. We are working on rapidly deployable solutions like these for (at risk) patients.