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Novant Health launches a tele-ICU program to expand access to critical care services at community hospitals

Novant Health

WINSTON-SALEM — While health care continues to advance technologically each year, the United States still faces a physician and nursing shortage in the acute care setting. Novant Health is working to address the national shortage of intensivists and critical care nurses at community hospitals through the launch of a new tele-ICU program. Strategically designed to help mitigate this gap in care, the tele-ICU program will enable remote monitoring and treatment of intensive care patients at community hospitals. This new technology will effectively improve access to critical care services and reduce the transfer rate to tertiary hospitals so patients may receive care closer to home.

To launch the tele-ICU program, Novant Health recently deployed 35 tele-ICU carts with an allocation of five to Novant Health Brunswick Medical Center, 10 to Novant Health Matthews Medical Center and 20 to Novant Health Rowan Medical Center. Eventually there will be a distribution of 120 tele-ICU carts.

The carts, which are equipped with a camera and measure 6½ feet tall, will allow critical care medical providers at an off-site command center to remotely monitor patients and provide supplemental real-time audio, visual and electronic support to the bedside care team. Some studies have reported a reduction in patient transfers by 37%. Additionally, these studies have noted a reduction in mortality as high as 20% and shortening of length-of-stay by 30%.

“We are excited to introduce Novant Health’s tele-ICU to provide supplemental care to our critical care patients at multiple sites across our footprint,” said Dr. Daniel Feinstein, a critical care medicine physician at Novant Health Kernersville Medical Center. “Through telehealth, we can leverage the most cutting-edge digital technology to remotely assist our bedside team members and providers with care plans and enhance communication with patients and family members.”

Intensivists who support the tele-ICU teams in the hospital will stay in direct communication with bedside physicians to follow care plans and support local providers, thus reducing the hospital’s readmission rate. The tele-ICU program is also expected to advance quality metrics for the bedside nursing team by improving early detection of changes in the patient’s condition. This will allow nurses to better assess and immediately respond to critical care patient needs. Additionally, studies have shown that tele-ICU programs help the bedside care team accomplish tasks 63% more quickly, and provides 45.6% more time for direct patient care.

The implementation of the new telemedicine technology was accelerated earlier this year by Stewart-Haas Racing, a championship-winning NASCAR team based in Kannapolis. The racing team began building the carts in April as a way to support the health care system during the coronavirus pandemic.

Funding for the project came from the FCC’s COVID-19 Telehealth Program, which awarded $1,536,485 to Novant Health as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The CARES Act was created to help health care providers provide connected care services to patients in their home or at mobile location in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The funding will also enable Novant Health to further expand its telemedicine capabilities with the acquisition of tablets, laptops, touch screen monitors, cameras and other telehealth equipment to better serve patients through digital technology.

The next distribution is expected to occur later this summer with allocations going to Novant Health Huntersville Medical Center, Novant Health Kernersville Medical Center, Novant Health Mint Hill Medical Center and Novant Health Thomasville Medical Center.