Launched in September 2004, Health First VitalWatch is an "eICU®"—or commonly called an electronic intensive care unit, that combines telemedicine, software, and 24/7 electronic monitoring technology. It provides Health First's critical care physicians and nurses the ability to monitor real-time vital signs, laboratory results, and complete electronic medical records of patients in the various intensive care units (ICU) at the four Health First hospitals from a central location. If necessary, the VitalWatch staff can also direct a patient's care on the spot via live audio and video connections to the patient's room. All information is transmitted over private data lines to ensure privacy and security.
Studies have shown critical care physicians, also known as intensivists, can reduce patient complications that lead to a double-digit decrease in the ICU death rate. However, with only 6,000 in the entire nation, intensivists are in short supply, enough to cover just 13 percent of ICU beds. The eICU® system allows a small core group of intensivists and critical care nurses to monitor a large number of patients at several locations. The advanced technology also meets Leapfrog ICU patient safety standards and promises fundamental changes in hospital intensive care.
"Our nurses and physicians are genuinely excited about this initiative and we fully expect that the eICU® solution will help us to enhance our culture of quality by reducing complications and mortality rates, and enabling shorter hospital stays for our sickest patients," said James Palermo MD, vice president of quality management/chief quality officer for Health First. "These high-tech patient support systems are the future of health care, and Health First is proud to be at the forefront. Critical care nurses at the bedside will be able to pick up the phone and immediately discuss a patient situation with a VitalWatch physician."
The VitalWatch staff can also contact nurses and physicians at the hospital if they detect something that may signal a potential problem. This proactive approach to preventing complications, or treating them immediately if they develop, is key to patients recovering more quickly.
Health First VitalWatch does not replace the patient's personal physician or nursing care they receive in intensive care, but simply adds another layer of support to ensure the best possible outcome. Physicians can choose the level of support they'd like the VitalWatch staff to provide, from monitoring only, to full authorization to handle any issues that may arise.
"At Health First we continually search for new ways to achieve our mission of providing quality health services to our community" said Michael D. Means, president and CEO of Health First Means. "The eICU® solution will enable us to provide our critical care patients with the very best technology available for patient safety."
The eICU® technology
The system installed at Holmes Regional Medical Center, Cape Canaveral Hospital, Palm Bay Community Hospital, and Viera Hospital is the first eICU® program in the southeastern United States, and only the eighth operating system in the US.
Brian Rosenfeld and Michael Breslow, both MDs from Johns Hopkins University, developed the telemedicine concept in 1997 and formed VISICU Inc., a Maryland-based company that installs the eICU® workstations, which consist of four video monitors and a telephone.
Proprietary software is used to manage patient care and electronically connect the "patient to the doctor" 24/7, and uses evidence-based care guidelines designed to support proactive and preventive care. Cameras and microphones are also in each patient room for the team of physicians and critical care nurses to make "virtual rounds" from their home base in Health First's administrative offices in Rockledge. A Cap-Gemini E&Y study of the eICU® system proved the clinical and financial benefits and the eICU® solution is currently the only technology solution that enables hospitals to meet the Leapfrog Group's ICU patient care safety standards.
"Health First is a recognized healthcare leader and we look forward to working closely with them to make the eICU® technology available to patients throughout the communities they serve in Florida," stated Frank T. Sample, VISICU president and CEO.
VISICU won the 2001 Healthcare Informatics and Technology Award and in 2002 the eICU® was recognized as one of the Top 100 technical innovations by InfoWorld magazine. For more information please visit www.visicu.com.
eICU® is a registered trademark of VISICU, Inc.