Small hospitals seem to always suffer the brunt of staffing shortages, whether it's because they can't compete with the big hospital systems' salaries or because they're located in rural areas where it's difficult to find a qualified workforce. Sometimes, small hospitals find themselves having to share ICU intensivists, which means the ICU patients in all hospitals involved in the sharing arrangement aren't getting the care they deserve. Tele ICU offers a solution to these common small hospital challenges.
How Tele ICU Helps With Staff Shortages
Tele ICU is like having an ICU intensivist on call at all times, but not on call like it used to mean. In the past, an on-call ICU intensivist was likely at home with their pager on and they would only be disturbed if there was an emergency in the ICU. Non-acute issues would typically be pushed off until the next day when an ICU intensivist would make their rounds and see each ICU patient.
These days, an on-call ICU intensivist is still in a remote location, but with tele ICU, they can immediately access EMRs, view radiology images, read lab reports, and even speak with a patient or their families at their bedside. They can give orders to the in-person ICU staff and provide guidance on non-acute issues that would normally not be addressed until the next day. This is a much better model because non-acute problems can become acute if action is delayed.
How Tele ICU Benefits the Patient
As mentioned, tele ICU benefits the ICU patients because there is always someone available via telemetry that can address their medical needs. There is no need to share an ICU intensivist who may or may not be available when a patient needs them and there is no need to wait until the next day to take care of a non-acute medical condition that arises when the ICU intensivist isn't actually in the hospital.
If an ICU patient needs to talk to a physician, with tele ICU, they can. They do not have to wait until the ICU intensivist is making their rounds to discuss their concerns. Tele ICU offers virtual bedside visits with patients if the hospital staff deems they are necessary. This service increases patient satisfaction and may have a direct impact on outcomes.
The Bottom Line
Small hospitals may not have the budget to keep a full-time ICU intensivist on staff, but with tele ICU, they don't need a full-time in-person ICU intensivist because they have virtual physicians at their fingertips. This technology not only addresses staffing shortages, but it also helps hospitals better meet their budgetary concerns by providing access to board certified ICU physicians only when they're needed. There's no need to pay an ICU intensivist a full-time salary when they may not be needed full-time.
While hospitals of all sizes are dealing with staffing challenges right now, small hospitals have unique obstacles that need to be addressed in creative ways. Tele ICU is one tool that can help small hospitals meet the medical needs of their ICU patients and ensure their ICU is covered by a qualified ICU intensivist at all times.