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Study: ICU Nurses Report Telemedicine Improves Patient Care

January 8, 2016
by Heather Landi
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Telemedicine in the intensive care unit (tele-ICU) is changing the way care is provided to acute and critically ill patients in ICU settings. And, according to a study published in the American Journal of Critical Care, a majority of ICU nurses believe using tele-ICU improves productivity and collaboration and enhances patient care.

The study aimed to conduct a national benchmarking survey of nurses working in telemedicine facilities in the U.S. to identify barriers to and benefits of implementing telemedicine with respect to nursing care. The study specifically surveyed nurses working in tele-ICU settings, including remote monitoring sites and units that interface with the sites.

There are currently 45 tele-ICUs in the U.S. reaching more than 200 hospitals with monitoring capability for more than 6,000 beds. The study reports that 800 to 1,000 nurses currently practice in tele-ICUs and more than 16,000 bedside nurses interface with these units.

According to the study results, of 1,200 nurses responding to an online survey, 79 percent said tele-ICU systems offer nurses an opportunity to improve patient care and 75 percent believe tele-ICU is useful in their job.

About 63 percent of respondents said using the tele-ICU enables them to accomplish tasks more quickly, 66 percent agree that it improves collaboration, 63 percent agree that it improves job performance and 60 percent said it improves communication. Other findings include 60 percent of nurse respondents see tele-ICU as useful in nursing assessments and almost 50 percent believe it improves care by giving more time for patient care.

The nurse respondents also cited a number of benefits to using tele-ICU, such as the ability to monitor trends in vital signs, detect unstable physiological status, provide medical management, enhance patient safety and prevent falls.

One study participant wrote, “Tele-ICU experience is one of the most unique fields that I have worked so far, and it has a vast potential in terms of reaching out and enhancing patient safety and care.”

The study respondents also cited a number of barriers to using tele-ICU, including technical problems, audio and video issues, attitudes of ICU staff and interruption in care.

The study also noted that a recent systematic review indicated that the cost of ICU implementation is substantial and that the impact of these programs on hospital costs or profits is unclear.

"No information on costs related to tele-ICU nursing care or on alternative nurse staffing models is currently available. This information would be beneficial to help maximize optimal nurse staffing, identify how best-practice care can be promoted with tele-ICU, and promote best patient care outcomes,” the study authors wrote.

The study authors also concluded, “Tele-ICU nursing, as a growing subspecialty of critical care nursing, is part of a model of care that has the potential to affect patients, patients’ families, and the entire health care team. This study was designed to elucidate the impact of the tele-ICU on nursing care and to identify priority areas of care for health care providers working in the remote facility. The results show promise in helping to further delineate competencies needed for optimal tele-ICU nursing practice and shape the research related to tele-ICU care."

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