Telemedicine improves patient care, outcomes in ICU, nurses say

About 63 percent of those quoted in the American Journal of Critical Care said tele-ICU enables faster work performance.
By Jessica Davis
10:24 AM
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Telemedicine is drastically changing the way care is provided in the intensive care unit, according to a recent American Journal of Critical Care report.

And for the better: A majority of nurses in the ICU are noticing an improvement in productivity and collaboration, the study shows.

More than 1,200 nurses responded to the online survey. About 79 percent agreed tele-ICU systems enable nurses to improve patient care, and approximately 75 percent agreed it improves job performance.

"Tele-ICU experience is one of the most unique fields that I have worked so far, and it has a vast potential in terms of reaching out and enhancing patient safety and care," one respondent said.

"Tele-ICU competency is a great need," said another nurse. "The multiple skills required are a mix of common and unique skills."

There are about 45 tele-ICUs that connect more 200 hospitals and 6,000 beds in the U.S. It's estimated between 800 to 1,000 nurses practice in tele-ICUs and another 16,000 interface with these units.

Tele-ICU is defined as technological innovations that use audio, visual or a combination to remotely monitor critical care in intensive care units.

Providers can remotely review patient vital signs, physiological status and laboratory and diagnostic test results and make care decisions based on these conditions. Telehealth can also be used for remote consultations from expert practitioners across the country to improve patient outcomes.

It's overwhelmingly clear that ICU nurses found telemedicine holds many benefits: 63 percent said tele-ICU enables faster work performance; about 66 percent saw improvement in collaboration; around 64 percent found it improved job performance; about 60 percent said it improves communication; and another 60 percent said it helps with nursing assessments.

Nearly half of respondents said telehealth allows more time for patient care.

According to respondents the biggest benefits to tele-ICU is the ability to monitor vital sign trends, provide medical management, enhance patient safety and detect unstable physiological status in patients.

But the impact of tele-ICUs is limited, the report found. Continued discussion and education are crucial to improving telehealth in these areas and to increase the understanding of its use amongst nursing staff.

In fact, the report found the biggest barriers are staff attitudes, audio and video problems and the belief that telemedicine interferes with care.

"These findings can be used to further inform the development of competencies for tele-intensive care nursing," the report's authors said.

Furthermore, healthcare institutions can "match the tele-intensive care nursing practice guidelines of the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses and highlight concepts related to the association's standards for establishing and sustaining healthy work environments."

Twitter: @JessiefDavis