Posted on Wednesday 3 July 2013
An example of telemedicine (image courtesy of Philips)
A remote 'eye in the sky' will help keep round-the-clock tabs on critically ill patients at Guy's and St Thomas' Hospitals thanks to an innovative telehealth solution called the Philips eICU (Intensive Care Unit) Program.
The installation at the hospitals will be the first of its kind in the UK and Europe. It is already used in about 300 hospitals in the US where studies have shown it has reduced patient mortality rates and hospital stays.
The system, supported by funding from Guy's and St Thomas' Charity, will be implemented over the next year on a trial basis to test its effectiveness.
The eICU Program, often dubbed 'a second pair of eyes on patients', is designed to transform conventional ICU in hospitals using real-time, 24/7 patient monitoring overseen by critical care specialists – in a similar way to an air-traffic controller's station.
Patients are monitored remotely using clinical software and tools such as two-way audio and high definition video. This means a team of experienced intensivists and nurses can constantly monitor a patient's condition, including during out of hours (nights and weekends). It allows the team to alert bedside physicians in a timely way to ensure that even subtle changes in vital signs, such as heart rate or blood pressure, are not missed.
"ICU is one of the most challenging areas of the hospital – it is where doctors and nurses respond to the sickest, most vulnerable patients who can rapidly take a turn for the worse with little or no advance warning," says Dr Richard Beale, clinical director of perioperative, critical care and pain services.
"With the Philips eICU Program, the bedside clinical staff will have immediate access to a team of highly skilled senior colleagues who provide an added layer of support to help save lives, reduce complications and decrease the length of ICU stays."