Telemedicine can serve the critical care needs of rural communities and already has saved millions of dollars while improving patient survival. Dr. Edward Zawada, Medical Director of Avera eICU® CARE, a service of Avera Health based in Sioux Falls, S.D., authored a study that found that significant financial benefits can be accomplished ranging from improved quality, less stress on rural physicians and nurses, along with higher patient and family satisfaction.
The study presented at the Society of Critical Care Medicine’s annual meeting compared data before eICU implementation, and then did a comparison 30 months after implementation. The findings showed:
- Rural hospitals had fewer patients requiring transfer, which represented a cost savings of more than $1.2 million
- There were shorter lengths of stay in intensive care units resulting in a saving of an estimated $8 million
- Hospital mortality rates were 65-80 percent lower than predicted after implementation of the eICU as compared to 50 percent lower than predicted before implementation
- Ninety percent of rural hospital clinical leaders reported being more comfortable caring for critically ill patients with eICU
- Ninety percent of rural hospital leaders agreed that patients and families are comfortable staying in the hospital with the added eICU care
- One hundred percent of rural physicians agreed that better safer care can be supported by a remote critical care team
While numerous studies documented by the Leapfrog Group show that intensivist staffing reduces the risk of ICU mortality by up to 40 percent, a shortage of intensivists makes such bedside care impossible in most locations. With only about 6,000 of these specialists in practice, less than 15 percent of ICUs have dedicated intensivist care which is especially true in rural areas.