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KershawHealth debuts Tele-ICU service

Posted: July 5, 2016 7:49 a.m.
Updated: July 5, 2016 1:00 a.m.
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Dr. Dee Ford, an intensivist with Tele-ICU, tunes into a room in KershawHealth’s ICU to demonstrate how the service works.

When it comes to critical care, time is of the essence.

Thanks to a cutting edge technology and a partnership between KershawHealth and its parent companies, MUSC Health and Capella Healthcare, Kershaw County now has the capability to save more of that precious time.

KershawHealth unveiled a new service Thursday called Tele-ICU, which will provide more time for intensive care patients who desperately need it. The service provides an extra and significant layer of expertise and oversight of an intensive care specialist medical team, in real time, within 60 seconds of the touch of a button.  

Local government leaders, board members, staff and interested members of the public gathered Thursday at KershawHealth for a brief reception and demonstration of the new service. 

“What we are seeing today, really, is science fiction brought to reality,” KershawHealth CEO Terry Gunn said to the group. “We are able to show you today truly an incredible advancement in the level of care we can now provide to the residents of Kershaw County.”

Another advantage of telemedicine is not just limited to use in a hospital. KershawHealth has plans to bring a number of services via telemedicine to Bethune in the near future, Gunn said.

Tele-ICU is just one of a myriad of services which can be brought to smaller markets and rural areas via telemedicine, MUSC CEO Dr. Patrick J. Cawley said. Cawley said KershawHealth has already been augmenting its stroke care via telemedicine.  

A Tele-ICU benefit is not having patients necessarily travel elsewhere to get advanced care. Such convenience alleviates a significant source of stress, namely trying to plan for travel and accommodations in an already stressful situation, Cawley said.

“We know that if you are able to stay close to home, have family and friends close by and accessible -- even your dog, in some cases -- then you are going to get better quicker,” Cawley said. “That’s what telemedicine and Tele-ICU provides.”

With Tele-ICU, a team of critical care doctors, known as intensivists, and critical care clinical staff work from centralized operations centers around the country. The centers are staffed 24/7. Not only do they constantly monitor ICUs in their network and are, therefore, able to respond to situations immediately, they are also on-call. They respond within 60 seconds of receiving an alarm or a call, Cawley said.

KershawHealth’s ICU has 10 beds/rooms. Each unit is wired with a television monitor and high definition camera which can rotate to see everything and everyone in the room. Below the monitor is a call button to summon a team immediately.

There are seven of these ICU operations centers around the United States and two overseas. All of them have access to online patient records and treatment charts so the operations center medical staff has the same information as the local medical staff in real time.

To demonstrate how the system works, Dr. Dee Ford, an intensivist with MUSC’s Charleston Operations Center, tuned in via monitor to a room in KershawHealth’s ICU. 

“What I would be doing right now is actually accessing the records and reports so that I would have the same information you would have onsite,” Ford said. “I also actually have privileges to practice medicine at KershawHealth.”

MUSC’s center is the hub for hospitals within the network in the Southeast, however, all of the centers are up and running 24 hours a day and all of them monitor all ICUs in the member networks so there is always someone available to immediately respond.

Capella-MUSC Network Chief Medical Officer Dr. Tallulah Holmstrom recently saw firsthand how well the service operates. Holmstrom said she was onsite at the hospital recently, literally a flight of steps away from the ICU, when a code blue call came from one of the rooms.

“By the time I got there -- and remember, I was just upstairs -- the Tele-ICU doctor on call had already responded and ordered the first round of meds for that patient,” Holmstrom said. “With critical care, timing is everything.”

That said, both Ford and Holmstrom pointed out Tele-ICU is not meant to replace staff at KershawHealth but to add a level of care and another layer of expertise.

“This is not meant to replace local care; it really complements what I do here,” Holmstrom said. “But the fact is there are just not enough ICU doctors available. What this does is give us that expertise, in real time, whenever we need it. They are available for consults; they can even meet with family, any time of day or night, if need be.”

Ford agreed.

“We absolutely respect the relationship between you and your doctor locally,” Ford said. “They know you much better than we do -- they probably have known you for a long time -- and they are going to probably be more comfortable with you.”



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