Telehealth prevents ICU deaths, research shows

Using telehealth services to monitor ICU patients can reduce mortality rates by 20%, and decrease length of stay by nearly 1.3 days, a group of Veterans Affairs researchers concluded. 

They evaluated telehealth interventions including videoconferencing, telemetry and remote access to electronic medical records that allowed off-site ICU clinicians to help guide treatment decisions, and possibly catch exacerbations before they happened -- improving mortality rates. The continuous oversight also made it easier to transfer patients out of ICU on evenings and weekends, which reduced with length of stay. 

The researchers admit their review isn't comprehensive, and indicated they're worried about the rapid adoption of telehealth in ICUs without concrete proof that it helps. They encourage health care facilities to conduct full randomized clinical trials to determined the true clinical value of telehealth for ICU patients. 

The examination, published in the March 28 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine, and conducted by the Iowa City Veterans Affairs Medical Center, was actually a literature review of 13 existing studies conducted from 2004 through 2010. Altogether, the studies covered 41,374 patients at 35 ICUs across the country. 

Read more:
- Access the study (reg. req.)
- Read this MedPage Today article
- Check out this article in the San Diego Union-Tribune

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