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December 23 2009

Evaluating Telemedicine in the ICU

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliations: Institute for Health Policy Studies and Department of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco.

JAMA. 2009;302(24):2705-2706. doi:10.1001/jama.2009.1924

Telemedicine, defined as the use of electronic information and communication technologies to provide health care when the caregiver and patient are geographically distanced,1 is an increasing trend in inpatient medicine. One of the most common applications is in the intensive care unit (ICU), where ICU telemedicine (tele-ICU) can be used to increase access to intensivist physicians. In this care model, intensivist physicians and nurses, located in a central monitoring facility, are able to visually monitor patients across multiple ICUs in many hospitals using bedside cameras while also electronically tracking relevant clinical information, such as vital signs or laboratory data. The remote care team is then able to communicate orally with bedside caregivers to provide real-time, around-the-clock patient care. Research has shown that dedicated on-site intensivist staffing is associated with reductions in hospital and ICU length of stay (LOS) and mortality.2 Thus, the appeal of tele-ICU is intuitive: it extends intensivist coverage to hospitals that do not have it and may increase the timeliness of intensivist input in other settings.

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