Tele-ICU Successfully Leveraged
Help during the pandemic for overwhelmed, overworked intensive care unit (ICU) nurses at some health systems came in the form of experienced tele-ICU nurses working remotely to support on-site colleagues as they cared for COVID-19 patients.
Nurses and a physician at Atrium Health described how they revved up an existing tele-ICU system to meet increased ICU demands during the pandemic in a paper published in August in Critical Care Nurse.
Atrium Health has had a tele-ICU system, which it calls the virtual critical care (VCC) unit, in its hospitals and network of ICUs throughout the Carolinas since 2013. The VCC uses real-time, two-way audio and high-definition video communication to critical care beds. Mobile carts deliver the virtual care in two of the system’s emergency departments. And the pre-pandemic VCC team included more than 80 board-certified tele-intensivists and 40 board-certified critical care nurses.
Virtual nurses and physicians provide coverage for adult critical care patients 24/7, helping nursing staff on the ground with a layer of critical care expertise, monitoring, and communication, according to the paper’s authors.
But with the quickly increasing demands on ICUs by COVID-19 patients, Atrium Health had to expand and prioritize its VCC.