Study: Tele-ICU tools worth the investment for hospitals

Despite the high cost of implementing telemedicine technology in intensive care units, hospitals could benefit more from such tools both financially and in terms of the quality of care delivered, according to research recently published online in the journal Telemedicine and e-Health.

For the study, researchers from Marshall University reviewed literature and case studies published in the U.S. between 2003 and 2013 that focused on the impact of telemedicine use in hospital ICUs; a total of 55 references were examined. They concluded that while tele-ICU technology could cost as much as $100,000 per bed, significant decreases in total ICU costs, patient mortality rates and length of stay likely outweighed that expense.

"The implementation of tele-ICU has had long-term financial benefits and an increase of patient safety and patient satisfaction," the authors wrote. "Tele-ICU has the potential to be the wave of the future in intensive care medicine due to the cost savings and improvement of provided quality of care."

The researchers also said that communication efforts among co-workers improved as a result of the use of telemedicine technology. "Although cost containment and improved patient outcomes have been identified as the primary benefits of tele-ICU utilization, these are not the only benefits," the authors said. "Improved staff communication, teamwork and improved supervision have also been recognized as advantages."

Research published in December in the CHEST Journal determined that use tele-ICU technology improved ICU survival and discharge rates. For that study, Craig Lilly, Director of the eICU Program at Worcester, Mass.-based UMass Memorial Medical Center, and a team of researchers examined the impact of tele-ICU technology across 56 intensive care units, 32 hospitals and 19 health systems over a five-year period.

Overall, they found that patients who were cared for by hospitals that used the technology were 26 percent more likely than those that received usual ICU care to survive the ICU; additionally such patients were 16 percent more likely to survive their hospitalization.

To learn more:
- here's the Telemedicine and e-Health study (.pdf)

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