Managed Care

ICU Stays Greatly Reduced By Use of Telemedicine

MANAGED CARE April 2014. © MediMedia USA
News & Commentary

ICU Stays Greatly Reduced By Use of Telemedicine

Telemedicine works in intensive care units (ICUs), no matter the size of the hospital or the region where it’s located, according to a huge study of the technology’s effectiveness. The study, published in the journal Chest, tracked about 120,000 patients from May 2003 to December 2006 in 56 ICUs, 32 hospitals, and 19 health systems.

“The large size of the study and its finding that improvements in performance were not limited to a single type of ICU, size of hospital or community served, hospital teaching status, or U.S. region suggests that these findings are broadly, rather than narrowly, applicable,” the study states.

Telemedicine allows critical care teams — which may be hundreds of miles away — to alert ICUs the minute a patient takes a turn for the worse.

The study found that patients monitored by telemedicine were:

  • 26% more likely to survive the ICU
  • Discharged from the ICU 20% faster
  • 16% more likely to survive hospitalization and be discharged
  • Discharged from the hospital 15% faster

“The association of the ICU telemedicine interventions with lower hospital mortality is notable because prior studies have not had adequate power to provide unequivocal evidence of this association,” says the study, “A Multicenter Study of ICU Telemedicine Reengineering of Adult Critical Care.”

For patients who stayed seven or fewer days, stays in the ICU were reduced by 0.5–1.1 days, thanks to telemedicine. The technology reduced by 1–2.5 days the stay for patients who were in the ICU 14 or fewer days. For patients who stayed 30 or fewer days, the reduction was 3.6–4.5 days.

A day here and a day there and pretty soon you’re talking about real money: Critical care costs the nation from $80 billion to $100 billion a year.

“Improved outcomes were primarily attributable to earlier intensivist management, coordinated timely usage of performance information, achievement of higher rates of adherence to best practices, shorter alarm response times, more frequent interdisciplinary rounds, and a more effective ICU committee,” the study states.