Telehealth boosts ICU for rural hospitals

By Kyle Hardy
09:05 AM

Three U.S. hospitals are now depending on a new trend in health IT to help them overcome a clinician shortage in rural areas: electronic intensive care units. 

Grinnell Regional Medical Center, in Grinnell, Iowa; Providence Kodiak Island Medical Center, in Kodiak, Alaska; and Union Hospital, in Clinton, Ind. are taking part in the eICU Program, developed by Philips VISICU, to help monitor patients and provide care in rural areas.

Each hospital is leveraging a regional eICU to facilitate the connections between physicians and rural patients. The goal is to give patients in rural areas better, faster access to critical care experts and specialists.

“We need to think more broadly about approaches to achieving our shared goal of improving the health status of all rural citizens,” said Alan Morgan, CEO of the National Rural Health Association. “Initiatives like this can benefit patients and also serve to support the local revenue base and the economic stability of the hospital in their local rural communities. In some cases, these hospitals are the largest employer in the area, making stability and the need for expanded capacity even more crucial.” 

Todd Linden, CEO of Grinnell Regional Medical Center, said the use of eICU technology has helped to retain physicians and nurses at the hospital.

The eICU services we receive from Mercy Health Network in Des Moines have been instrumental in my ability to recruit an internal medicine physician to our facility, thereby bringing specialized services and expertise to our team," Linden said. "With the pace of change and the growing acuity of patients, the only way that I see for rural hospitals to maintain an intensive care unit is through an eICU center. We can’t afford not to have it."
Officials from Union Hospital said since implementing the eICU Program through Advanced ICU Care, patient stays at the hospital have decreased by 26 percent, allowing for an 18 percent increase in ICU admissions.

About 250 hospitals in the United States are now using the eICU Program to connect patients in rural areas with specialists.

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