An Electronic Intensive Care Unit is a care model that uses telemedicine to provide 24/7 critical care services for patients with complex, high acuity conditions, without the need for an on-site physician. The term eICU, also known as teleICU, is the diagnosis and treatment of hospital patients in need of the most critical care by remote intensivists using technology like videoconferencing. It makes it possible for hospitals to have access to critical care specialists in the ICU, Emergency Room, or Med/Surg floors and be connected face-to-face in minutes. Similar to emergency department physicians and hospitalists, intensivists are an integral component of acute care telemedicine.
The difference between eICU and a typical ICU workflow is that the critical care physician is remote. Like other hospital ICU physicians, teleIntensivists (also known as teleCritical Care physicians) begin each shift by rounding with the patient care team and discussing each patient, classifying them by acuity:
- Patients with acute needs that have potential issues and challenges
- Patients that can be downgraded or transferred out of the ICU
- Patients in the “grey area” where the trajectory of the illness is less clear
- Patients identified with potential problems or increased acuity due to their diagnoses and progressing illness can be escalated for a full in-depth evaluation by the teleIntensivist and on-site care teams. The goal is to proactively assess and treat patients before decompensating occurs.
When an emergency occurs in the ICU, the patient care team can request a consult (similar to paging a doctor who may be elsewhere in the hospital.) TeleCritical Care physicians can run codes, talk the care team through procedures, as well as speak directly to patients and/or their families to help with difficult care decisions.