Intensive care units (ICUs) are a vitally important component of health care in US hospitals, treating six million of the sickest and oldest patients every year. Recently, the traditional ICU model has been challenged by the increased demands of an aging population, too few critical care specialists to meet staffing targets, and heightened pressure from payers to demonstrate better quality and greater cost-effectiveness.
Tele-ICU offers a solution, using a communication network with electronic vital sign monitors to allow clinicians in one center to remotely monitor, consult, and care for ICU patients in multiple distant satellite centers. By increasing the number of ICU patients that critical care teams can manage, tele-ICUs can effectively extend both the productivity and the reach of specialists.
NEHI, a national health policy institute focused on enabling innovation to improve health care quality and lower costs, has examined the clinical and financial benefits of using telemedicine in ICUs since 2007. With support from the California Health Care Foundation and other funders, NEHI has published the following seminal reports: