Canadian province tests remote ICU monitoring with phone, video, data links

Remote ICU monitoring has been around for several years to provide round-the-clock virtual coverage of critical care patients at facilities that can't afford to have intensivists on duty at all hours--or, in some cases, at all. Some urban academic health systems and IDNs have employed remote ICU technology (we'd call it an "eICU," but that's actually a trademark of Visicu, a pioneering company now owned by Philips Healthcare) to cover smaller, community hospitals in their networks, but the real promise seems to lie in extending coverage to rural and isolated facilities.

That's the idea behind the Virtual Critical Care pilot now underway in some of the vast wilderness of Canada. Sudbury Regional Hospital in northeastern Ontario--a good five-hour drive from Toronto--is joining with the established Ontario Telemedicine Network, emergency physician referral service CritiCall Ontario, the Northeast Local Health Integration Network and two rural hospitals for the pilot, the first of its kind in Canada's most populous province.

If a patient at one of the two rural facilities needs an advanced level of intensive care than the hospital can provide, the treating physician can ring up CritiCall Ontario and speak with an intensivist at Sudbury. The doctors then can connects via OTN with mobile telemedicine carts brought to the patient's bedside to provide real-time audio, video and data links to the intensivist. Virtual Critical Care also keeps an ICU nurse on duty at Sudbury to provide additional advice.

"At the end of the day this means distant patients and their critical care providers will have a timely critical care consultation, and thus enhance the level of care for the patient," says Sudbury intensivist Dr. David Boyle.

For additional information:
- read this Canadian Healthcare Technology story

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