One of the latest advances implemented at Baptist Health is eICU technology, and it allows for patient monitoring of Critical Care Units throughout the system at a central remote location on the sixth floor of the Baptist Health Eye Center building on the BHMC-LR campus.
"I believe this is one of the most exciting advancements in medical technology that I've seen in my 30-plus years in healthcare," said Russ Harrington, president of Baptist Health. "This new initiative is almost revolutionary in using technology to significantly improve outcomes in Critical Care patients."
"Everything we do should be focused on how it will better help our patients, and we need to do our absolute best job in Critical Care areas because every decision is so crucial for those patients. The eICU technology takes our level of care to a new standard with more resources for physicians, nurses, and other caregivers," Harrington said.
Physicians and nurses are staffed in the eICU control center in the Eye Center and act as additional support to monitor Critical Care patients and provide faster response times through use of computer technology as well as audio and video components.
The eICU control center covers two Critical Care Units at BHMC-Little Rock and one at BHMC-North Little Rock, and will eventually cover Critical Care beds throughout the entire system.
Studies of healthcare systems that have implemented an eICU control center show a 27-percent reduction in mortality rate and a 17-percent reduction in length of stay, primarily because patients are being watched more closely and with quicker interventions. Patient time spent on ventilators has also shown to be reduced.
"When I heard the statistics from the first study that showed these results, I didn't believe it. But when another study showed the same results, I said that we need to look at anything that can produce these kinds of patient outcomes," Harrington said.
"Studies have also shown a 20-percent increase in the number of patients who can be moved from Critical Care beds to acute care beds, which is important because when patients get better quicker, it opens up beds for other patients, for example trauma patients coming to us via ambulance who are diverted to other hospitals because our Critical Care beds are full," he said.
The new remote ICU monitoring unit does not replace or eliminate any jobs in other areas of Baptist Health, and it will not take the place of physicians and nurses at the bedside nor work in a supervisory role of "looking over the shoulders" of the staff on the floors.
Instead, the eICU staff work as part of the team solely in an effort to provide the highest possible quality of care and monitoring for Critical Care patients. It adds a layer of safety and confidence to the busy caregivers in the units with a system that allows for remote ICU monitoring in every aspect of a patient's condition.
An eICU facility supports not only nursing but ancillary staff such as respiratory therapy, pharmacy, and dietitians with immediate access to physician-led care teams and computerized decision support.
"One analogy is to look at the eICU control center as kind of an air traffic control tower for all of Baptist Health's Critical Care beds," said Dr. Anthony Bennett, BHMC-LR vice president of Clinical Services.
"Another analogy is to compare the control center to the football coaches who sit in the press box and communicate with the coach on the field during the game. This is not Big Brother looking over your shoulder. They're watching your back, and that's what it's all about," Bennett said.
The key element to the eICU control center is the software that enables the physician and nurse team to monitor every Critical Care patient at once. The software's Smart Alert automated monitoring and notification system continually analyzes data on patients to pick up problems on the front end long before they could be noticed physically. The Smart Alerts also can serve as an extra filter to prevent medication errors.
With the eICU technology, every Critical Care room will be equipped with a camera as well as a microphone and speaker that enables staff in the control center to communicate with staff and even the patient in the room. If the camera is turned on to monitor the patient, a bell rings and the camera rotates to indicate that it is in use.
Typically, the eICU control center will include one physician, one nurse, and one data clerk per 70 beds.
In hospitals that have implemented the eICU system, it has become so popular with nurses that some have waiting lists of nurses who want to work in the eICU control center. One hospital system reports that nursing retention has doubled in units with these advancements in health care.
The goal is for the physicians on duty to be intensivists, which are doctors who specialize in Critical Care, a specialty that is experiencing a shortage nationally, especially with the increasing number of Critical Care patients from the Baby Boomer generation. Currently about 13 percent of Critical Care patients nationwide receive intensivist care, and creating a new role for intensivists in remote ICU monitoring centers will allow for more patients to be under the care of physicians in this specialty.
The new eICU system at Baptist Health has been made possible thanks to the generosity of donors. More than $5.5 million that the Baptist Health Foundation will receive from two estates, along with the proceeds from Bolo Bash 2005, have been used to transform and equip this high-tech facility and bring about new advancements in health care.
"Donors who remember Baptist Health in their estate plans help make the Baptist Health vision for the future a reality," said Missy Lewis, executive vice president of the Foundation. "Our dear friends Mary Olive Black and Mary Ann Boyd believed in the mission of Baptist Health and wanted to continue to advance this healing ministry after their lifetimes. Through their estate gifts, their desire to continue advancements in healthcare will become a reality."