Missouri hospital saves lives with virtual ICU technology

By Diana Manos
10:24 AM

St. Mary's Health Center, an SSM Health Care facility in Jefferson City, Mo., reports success with the use of a virtual ICU program, used in conjunction with its in-house program.

At the Institute for Healthcare Improvement National Forum, Dec. 9-12 in Orlando, Fla.,  executives from St. Mary's announced results of  its virtual use of ICU technology to improve mortality rates, lengths of stay and quality measures. Since St. Mary's launched  its use of virtual ICU technology in 2006, ICU mortality dropped by 24 percent after one year; cardiac arrests plunged by 69 percent; ICU patient total length of stay fell by 14 percent; and there were no cases of ventilator-associated pneumonia (VAP) since the program's inception.

"We recognized the need for around-the-clock intensivist care in the ICU, but had difficulty recruiting and securing fulltime physicians," said John Lucio, vice president of medical affairs, St. Mary's Health Center.

"We were concerned, as were many hospitals, about the lack of coverage during office hours; competing priorities for consulting physicians, especially at night and on weekends; physician availability in emergency situations; and high ICU nursing turnover, partly due to delays in reaching physicians," Lucio said.

St. Mary's uses a system by Advanced ICU Care, which provides 24/7 monitoring to ICU patients by experienced, board-certified intensivists and critical care nurses.

Research shows that five million patients are admitted to ICUs each year and an estimated 10 percent die there. While full intensivist staffing would save 162,000 lives annually, only one in five ICUs has intensivists on staff. Remote monitoring programs for ICUs are a viable alternative to the intensivist shortage and improve patient care and safety.

"With all that is at stake, we need to get it right in the ICU," said Mary Jo Gorman, MD, chief executive officer of Advanced ICU Care. "The improvements made possible by virtual ICU technology bring a life-saving level of care. It really is becoming the new standard of care for community hospitals striving to provide the best possible quality care to ICU patients."