The pandemic has changed the medical field forever. While virtual medical visits were on the rise before the virus sent everyone into quarantine, they exploded once people were hesitant to leave their homes to visit their doctors in person. But, virtual doctor visits aren’t the only type of medical care that’s gone high-tech. Tele ICU has become a popular way to deliver care and control medical costs at the same time. The benefits of a virtual ICU are numerous, but these four are the top reasons given by hospitals for implementing one.
Addresses the Physician Shortage
As with most professions, there is a critical shortage of physicians to adequately staff hospitals, especially on night shifts and on weekends. A virtual ICU program allows multiple ICUs to be virtually staffed by a single ICU physician, who can perform all the administrative tasks and many of the diagnostic duties that an in-person ICU physician can do. Having an on-call staff of ICU professionals available immediately to consult with in-person staff reduces the need to hire multiple doctors for multiple shifts.
Reduces ICU Wait Times
ICU outcomes improve when patients can get what they need right when they need it. But, with the physician shortage, there are times when an in-person ICU physician is not available to prescribe medicine, diagnose an issue, or even discharge a patient to a non-intensive floor. With a virtual ICU, though, these tasks can be requested and completed almost immediately. The in-person ICU staff simply contacts the tele ICU staff and provides the on-call doctor with the details of the request. Rather than having to wait until morning, when the ICU doctor comes on shift, a patient’s needs are addressed right away.
Aside from the physician shortage, it’s also extremely expensive for hospitals to fully staff an ICU with physicians at all times of the day and night. This is particularly true for rural or other small hospitals that don’t have the funding of the larger medical facilities. A virtual ICU allows all hospitals to have access to ICU physicians at all times without expending the cost of a fully staffed ICU. What’s more is that this cost-cutting measure doesn’t affect patient care. If anything, it actually improves ICU outcomes by ensuring that needs are addressed quickly and completely.
The pandemic has brought to the forefront the dangerous situations that medical staff members face every day. By using tele ICU services, the danger of exposure to viruses and other hazardous entities is significantly reduced for the attending physician. The doctor can continue to treat patients at a high level without the threat of becoming ill themselves. In the time of physician shortages, this is not a small concern. As the COVID infection rates ebb and flow, it’s important to have all hands on deck when the situation requires. Tele ICU gives hospitals the best chance to make that happen.
Virtual services are becoming the norm in many aspects of society. The ICU is no different and can benefit greatly from this new technology.