As health care continues to progress, more and more new technologies are adopted in the hopes of improving the industry. However, not everyone benefits from technological changes. One topical technological addition to the healthcare industry is the use of tele-ICUs, a branch of telemedicine defined by the American Association of Critical Care Nurses as, “networks of audiovisual communication and computer systems that link critical care physicians…and nurses to intensive care units (ICUs) in other, remote hospitals.” The increasing integration of tele-ICUs across the country will have a profound effect on nurses and their patients. By evaluating some of the characteristics of tele-ICUs, we can hopefully predict these benefits and consequences.
I had no idea tele ICUs existed but one of my colleagues also a nurse attorney was hospitalized in an E ICU. She was just there for observation. She thought it was creepy that people were watching her and were joking about doing something lewd to see if anyone noticed! Fortunately she is fine now.
Below I’ll list some of the pros and cons of tele-ICU’s. By no means is this list exhaustive, but hopefully it will give a good representation of what tele-ICUs bring to the table.
|· Promotes teambuilding, communication, and collaboration skills
· Allows experts to deliver critical information to and coach on-site staff that lack specific training for an emergency
· Enables supervisors to oversee the work environment
· Promotes safety by observing patients in ICU units
· Reduced staff may reduce day-to-day costs
· May improve healthcare facilities’ efficiency in operations
· Allows immediate response in case of emergency
|· May exclude nurses who are capable of administering care but lack the ability to work in teams electronically
· May result in nurses with more training and expertise being relocated to central facilities thereby reducing staff and leaving less experienced nurses to provide direct care.
· Video monitoring may make nurses feel uncomfortable
· Video monitoring may make patients feel uncomfortable; may reduce bedside staff
· Large up-front financial investment for healthcare facility
· Fundamentally changes healthcare facilities’ culture and strategy
· Lacks personal touch of nurses who care
· Unclear lines of who is running the show especially if the tele-ICU is outsourced (run by another company).
It’s too soon to tell if tele-ICUs will help or hurt nurses and the health care industry as a whole. Only time will tell. In the meantime, let me know if your healthcare facility uses tele-ICU methods or if it is looking to in the future? What are some of your thoughts and experiences?