Upper Valley Medical Center’s critically ill patients will soon have the benefit of an advanced telemedicine program designed to enhance patient safety with an extra layer of care. 

Beginning Feb. 28, the UVMC Intensive Care Unit will implement a tele-ICU system which provides monitoring by highly trained intensivist physicians and critical care specialists 24 hours-a-day, 7 days-a-week.  The system is a partnership between Premier Health/UVMC and Advanced ICU Care, the largest tele-ICU provider in the United States.

With this system, board-certified intensivists (critical care physicians) and nurses at one of Advanced ICU’s centralized operational centers become part of the clinical care team in the ICU. They work together with the on-site care team to evaluate all patients admitted to the ICU and to monitor patient data, vital signs, labs, medications, and clinical status.

Advanced two-way audio video technology enables face-to-face consultations with bedside physicians and nurses and allows the tele-ICU providers to interact with patients and their families.

“Tele-ICU is a care model that marries sophisticated technology with intensivists and critical care staff at a remote location to provide an enhanced layer of safety to patients,” said Jennifer Hauler, D.O., chief medical officer of the Premier Health northern region. “The tele-ICU in no way replaces the bedside clinician, but rather adds a supplemental layer of safety and protection.”

“A key benefit of the partnership is knowing that patients are being vigilantly monitored by experienced intensivists when their bedside physician is not present in the room with the patient,” Dr. Hauler explained. “This partnership will provide added support and expertise, aiming to ensure emerging issues can be dealt with as quickly as possible.”

The new system includes proactive data management tools that help to identify problems before they become urgent and allow the tele-ICU team to work alongside the hospital team to address situations before complications develop.

“Our critical care nurses appreciate the additional care and support this system provides,” said Terry Fry, vice president of nursing at UVMC. “They welcome these additional tools and especially the knowledge that an intensivist physician can be monitoring the patient at all times.”

Because the tele-ICU service is operational 24/7/365, ICU nurses and staff have the ability to reach out to another clinician remotely at any time for advice or consultation.

“Our nurses can rest assured that there is always an eye on their patients, even if they become temporarily consumed in managing an acute situation,” Fry added. 

“This new tele-ICU partnership is part of our commitment to continually innovate and improve services for our patients and our community,” said Becky Rice, president of UVMC. “We are very excited to bring the addition of around-the-clock telemonitoring to the level of quality care already provided by our physicians and caregivers in the ICU.”

Independent studies demonstrate that this 24/7 intensivist monitoring significantly improves patient outcomes and patient safety in the intensive care unit. In a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), implementation of a tele-ICU program was associated with reduced adjusted odds of mortality and reduced hospital length of stay, as well as with improvements in best practice adherence and lower rates of preventable complications.

Another study published by the New England Healthcare Institute (NEHI) recommends that community hospitals with 10 or more ICU beds adopt tele-ICU care. UVMC currently has 10 ICU beds.

UVMC is the first hospital in the region to implement this program, which will be monitored by a Premier Health system-wide ICU team to explore the benefit of tele-ICU for the entire system.