eicu shore

A camera that is part of the monitoring system is examined by, from left, Corey Scurlock, national medical director of Advanced ICU Care; Dr. James O’Connor; Pat Otaegui, Shore administrating director of acute care; and Shore President and CEO Ron Johnson.

Ben Fogletto

Two-way video communication and overnight remote monitoring will become part of intensive care at Shore Medical Center this month, the first such program in the state, according to the company that will operate the system.

Beginning Jan. 29, the electronic Intensive Care Unit will provide 24-hour supervision by certified doctors for critical patients at the hospital in Somers Point.

Shore Medical Center said in a release last week that the program will continuously monitor patient vital signs, medications, lab tests, clinical status and outcomes of care. Data management tools will identify problems before they become urgent, prompting intervention when necessary.

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Each of the hospital’s 16 ICU rooms will be outfitted with a call button on the wall near the bed, as well as a digital video camera, computer monitor and microphone mounted on the ceiling.

Remote doctors, board certified intensivists, in Manhattan or St. Louis, monitor each patient, keeping track of records and adding notes via a shared database, said Dr. Corey Scurlock, national medical director for Advanced ICU Care, which will operate the eICU program for Shore.

If family members visit at a time when the physicians are not present, such as early in the morning or on weekends, they can video chat with the physician. The camera faces away from the patient at all other times.

“It’s not like Big Brother is watching,” said Pat Otaegui, administrative director of acute care at Shore.

Ron Johnson, president and CEO of Shore Medical, said the hospital is taking a proactive step investing in the technology.

And the technology is a significant investment for the hospital, totaling about $260,000, which includes $6,500 per room for equipment.

A $20,000 grant from TD Bank’s Charitable Foundation was announced Tuesday, which will help the hospital implement the new system, according to Shore.

The system works through high-resolution cameras with powerful zooms, allowing doctors to clearly read the print on labels of intraveinous bags, said Dr. James O’Connor, III, medical director of critical care at Shore.

Scurlock said if a situation requires a physical presence, the remote intensivist, or critical care physician, can keep watch over the situation while the local physician is called in.

“It’s comforting to know that in addition to the nurses, someone is really coordinating and taking care of the patients, even if it’s at three in the morning,” O’Connor said.

Shore said in its statement that studies show implementation of a tele-ICU program has been associated with reduced adjusted odds of mortality, shorter hospital stays as well as lower rates of preventable complications.

While different studies in recent years conflict on whether or not the tele-ICU has any effect on mortality rates or decreased length of stay, most agree the additional pair of eyes helps keep more accurate records of a patient’s progress.

In a 2010 article, the American Association of Critical Care Nurses said insufficient nursing staff “has been linked to medication errors ... and increased lengths of stay with higher complication rates.”

VISICU, the system underlying the eICU, is owned by Phillips Electronics, and was developed at Johns Hopkins about 15 years ago, Scurlock said.

Dr. Benjamin Kohl from the University of Pennsylvania said the technology has been a great aid. “I could be sitting a mile away and the camera can zoom in and count (a patient’s) eyelashes,” he said.

“It’s a new field to some extent,” Kohl said. “At last count, between 6 to 8 percent of all ICUs in the country are covered” by a tele-ICU.

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