Monitoring care system connects hospital with MMC specialists

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FARMINGTON – Franklin Memorial Hospital will implement a new remote intensive care unit monitoring system, Franklin eICU, on Oct. 28 that will help doctors and nurses monitor and improve patient care.

Franklin Memorial Hospital has a five-room intensive care unit (ICU), staffed by physicians and nurses who care for the hospital’s sickest patients. With eICU technology those patients will be linked with MaineHealth VitalNetwork’s critical care team of intensivists (physicians trained in the care of the critically ill) and critical care nurses at its center in Portland.

The new technology will not replace the hands-on care provided by staff at Franklin Memorial, but rather provides electronic monitoring of patient conditions around the clock. It also allows Franklin Memorial Hospital providers to collaborate with a second team of critical care specialists.

Intensivists are board-certified physicians who are additionally certified in the subspecialty of critical care medicine. There are only 6,000 practicing intensivists in the country, leaving a shortfall of 30,000. This means only 10 to15 percent of U.S. hospitals have an intensivist on staff and those without have little hope of hiring one from the limited pool available.

To help fill the gap MaineHealth, the parent organization of Maine Medical Center, began an innovative electronic intensive patient care monitoring program in 2005 that places a “virtual” intensivist in hospital ICUs.

According to Dr. David Hyde, medical staff president, “Patients in our ICU will be treated here by our physician hospitalists and monitored and helped by intensivist physicians associated with Maine Medical Center. Through electronic monitoring, the critical care specialists in Portland can see
through cameras and monitor patient data with electronic equipment. They can see remotely exactly what our nurses and doctors can see. This exciting new partnership will improve clinician and nursing 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.

MaineHealth VitalNetwork follows strict rules regarding privacy. A camera and microphone in each room is only turned on when needed. A signal sounds when it is turned on, and the lens points at the patient. No recording is made when the camera and microphone are on. When the camera is off, the lens is turned away from the patient.

In addition to providing a virtual team of critical care specialists to help bedside ICU staff, the eICU monitoring systems also give hospitals a way to collect vital data about the quality of the medical care they provide. “This data is valuable at a time when health care advocates and those interested
in containing medical cost are developing benchmarks to evaluate hospitals’ performances and efficiencies. We are committed to continually look at ways to improve care,” said Jerry Cayer, FMH executive vice president.

Cayer also noted that there will be no added charge to a patient’s bill for eICU monitoring and care.

Sentara Healthcare in Norfolk, Virginia was among the first in the nation to try an eICU model. Three years after eICU monitoring began there, researchers reported in a 2004 issue of “Critical Care Medicine” that it reduced ICU patient mortality by 27 percent, decreased ICU patients’ lengths
of stay by 17 percent, and saved $2,150 per ICU patient due to shorter hospitalizations.

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