Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Watching Out for You

I’ve sat with friends and a few of our very ill employees in our ICU and it can be a tense time. Life feels so vulnerable in critical health situations. The level of trust and confidence in the physicians, nursing staff, and technology is accentuated.

I understand the need for the best staff and technology. So I’m proud to welcome the electronic intensive care unit as another way to give confidence and trust to our patients and their families. The eICU is a monitoring system to watch a critical patient’s vitals and health status.

The capabilities of this technology are quite impressive. The unit monitors our critical patient and sends the patient’s information to an intensivist (board certified critical care physician) in the Mercy Medical Center – Des Moines eICU center. There the intensivist can monitor heart rates, blood pressure, view x-rays, review lab results, and even watch the patient’s breathing or the IV drip. The ability to watch for subtle changes in a patient’s condition can make a different in his or her outcome. The marvel of this instant video links and data transfer allows patients to remain at the GRMC ICU or ER closer to family and freinds. If a patient’s condition meets the criteria, the unit is set up and watches over the patient. Unless you are in critical condition, you won’t ever use this technology but it is reassuring that the equipment is available if needed.

Though patient outcome was the first priority for implementing the technology, this addition also addresses operational challenges in healthcare, especially rural hospitals. The current national shortage in internal medicine physicians hits small hospitals worse than urban hospitals. GRMC has experienced difficulties in recruiting and retaining internists because the 24/7 demand is just not sustainable for a solo-practice physician. The eICU provides a watchful eye on our sickest, most critical patients when the hospitalist is off duty. By adding this technology, it helped us recruit an exceptional internist, Christine Lindgren, DO, PhD. The high cost of an ICU also limits small hospitals and this eICU addition expands capabilities for patients at a lower cost. The eICU also helps address the nursing shortage and aging workforce challenges.

The electronic intensive care unit is considered one of many best practices that improve patient outcomes. So when a loved one is in GRMC’s intensive care or emergency department with a critical condition, you can be confident a watchful eye is monitoring them carefully.

The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent GRMC’s positions, strategies, or opinions.

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