If the most recent COVID-19 pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that we must be prepared for the next pandemic. We can’t be caught with a hospital bed, staff, and equipment shortages like we were this time because when hospitals aren’t prepared, society suffers even more. eICU companies that offer remote management and monitoring of hospital ICUs are at the forefront of solving these shortages. Here’s how.
One of the biggest issues that came to light during the COVID-19 pandemic is that there aren’t enough ICU beds for the potential number of patients that will need them during a major health crisis. COVID-positive people had to be isolated from other patients to prevent the spread of the illness, but there just wasn’t enough space. Patients were put in hallways and in every nook and cranny available in hospitals, which wasn’t a safe way to operate.
While eICUs don’t magically find additional ICU beds, they do increase turnover time so that patients who no longer need an ICU bed are moved to a regular unit more quickly. A remote ICU physician can discharge a patient so that they don’t need to wait for an in-person doctor to review their chart and make that decision. Turning over ICU beds in a time of crisis is important for ensuring everyone who needs an ICU bed can get one.
When there is a worldwide or national health crisis, every medical worker is needed, but when they’re dealing with an influx of patients, a contagious disease, and already-minimal staffing, there’s no easy way to make sure all positions are filled. A remote ICU allows hospitals access to fully-qualified ICU intensivists and other physicians to ensure their ICU patients are monitored at all times and appropriately treated when necessary.
The pandemic was particularly challenging for small and rural hospitals that were already suffering from staffing shortages. By adding an eICU program, these hospitals can reassure their patients and their families that they will be cared for with the same level of professionalism as if they were in a larger, urban hospital. When almost all ICU hospital beds are full, it’s critical that these smaller ICUs are available for patients in their region and a remote ICU helps make this a reality.
As with ICU beds, a remote ICU doesn’t magically make personal protective equipment appear out of nowhere, but it does lessen the need for it. Since patients can be examined remotely, the physician who is performing the exam doesn’t need to be in protective equipment. They can assess the patient using their vital signs, electronic health records, symptoms, and information from in-person staff. Of course, if an in-person exam is necessary, the remote physician can make that determination as well.
ICU technology can actually make ICUs safer because of the distance between infected patients and hospital personnel. This also means that remote physicians can stay well and see as many patients as possible.
Only a handful of ICUs had EICU capabilities when the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020, but now that their usefulness and, in some cases, their necessity is known, they are becoming more widespread every day. When (not if) the next pandemic hits, more hospitals will be ready and more patients will have the very best care possible.