Editor’s note: this article first appeared on the University of Minnesota Physicians intranet in February.
David Johnson’s asthma had landed him in the hospital once before. This time, on a November Sunday, he was running a high fever. So on Monday morning, David’s wife Tracy was concerned by the continuing fever and his wheezing. She took him to the E.D. at Fairview Lakes Medical Center, where it didn’t take long to determine he had pneumonia.
If it’d been a year earlier, he’d have been transferred to University of Minnesota Medical Center, Fairview – in Minneapolis, more than 30 miles away. But, thanks to our Telemedicine-ICU (Tele-ICU) program, David was able to stay put and still receive expert care from the providers at UMPhysicians.
“The Hub,” situated in the midst of ICUs on the East Bank of University of Minnesota Medical Center (UMMC), is home to a team of critical care nurses and highly specialized physicians who work in tandem with ICU teams across Fairview. Through the technology in David’s room, the team in the UMMC hub monitored David’s condition 24/7, enhancing his care with additional assessment and intervention as necessary.
Making it easier on families
“It made me feel better that there were more people involved in David’s care, knowing that everyone was working together, trying to get him better,” Tracy says of the Tele ICU. “I was so relieved that he didn’t have to be transferred, that he could stay so much closer to home.”
Traveling to Minneapolis would have made David’s hospitalization much more difficult for this family. For instance, the shorter distance from their East Bethel home to Lakes made coordinating their 10-year-old daughter’s before- and after-school arrangements easier. “Since I was closer to home, her schedule could continue to be the same.”
Expanding the benefits of academic medicine beyond the campus
In addition to helping patients and their families stay closer to home, the Tele-ICU program has shown positive quality results. Critical care readmission rates, mortality rates and time patients are on ventilators have declined in the year since the program began. It is a great example of how we can improve patient experience and outcomes by extending the reach of UMPhysicians’ expertise to the community.
“The most interesting thing we’ve learned in our first year is how varied the needs of the Fairview ICUs are and how quickly the Tele-ICU program has responded to those differences,” says Craig Weinert, M.D., Tele-ICU medical director. “Some ICUs need more assistance during the day, others mostly at night. Some nursing issues are primary; other times it’s physician or respiratory therapists’ concerns. Sometimes all the Tele-ICU needs to do is send in a critical care specialist to the bedside at Ridges or Southdale, whereas for Lakes and Northland we’ve learned how to cooperatively care for patients on life support with the on-site physician and nurses 40 miles away.”
Back home and back to work
David was in the ICU for 10 days, and he returned home on Thanksgiving. He’s now back at work at a Blaine hydraulics company. He doesn’t remember most of his ICU stay, says Tracy, but she remembers it vividly.
“If he had gone to any other hospital, he would surely have died, but thanks to the professional staff, our lives together will continue,” says Tracy.