At Emory, remote monitoring tackles quality, staff morale

A close-up photo of a vital signs monitor
Emory Healthcare in Atlanta is tackling the industry’s ongoing physician shortage by employing night shift ICU clinicians. Photo credit: Getty/boggy22

Emory Healthcare in Atlanta is tackling the industry’s ongoing physician shortage by employing night shift ICU clinicians based half a world away.

Emory has partnered with Macquarie University's MQ Health in Sydney, Australia, to ensure that odd hours such as nights, weekends and holidays have plenty of skilled physicians and nurses available to care for patients, the health system announced. Clinicians located in Australia will remotely monitor ICU patients, and because of time zone differences, they will work the often-unwanted night shift during the day time.

Emory doctors and nurses relocate to Australia for six to nine weeks and monitor patients in Georgia from MQ Health’s facilities. The Australia-based clinicians’ heart rates and stress levels are also monitored to see how the relocation is impacting their well-being, too.

That’s another major piece to the puzzle, according to Emory officials. The program is designed to both ensure that patients receive quality care at odd hours, but it also strives to combat low morale and burnout among staff. Timothy Buchman, M.D., Emory’s chief of critical care service, told Hospitals & Health Networks that system leadership wanted to improve staff members’ work-life balance by “literally turning night into day.”

Cheryl Hiddleson, R.N., director of the Emory eICU Center, told the publication that the program benefits from using Emory’s own staff instead of hiring remote doctors. The remote ICU clinicians interact more with bedside staff and don’t spend their entire shift stationed at a computer, she said.

“There’s no end to the good that can be done,” Hiddleson said.