Covenant Health launches tele-ICU, celebrates added service for patients and families

Local News

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – Covenant Health is celebrating a new service for patients, particularly those who find themselves in need of critical medical intervention. The healthcare system announced the addition of telehealth services to their intensive care units Friday.

A news release shows their nine acute care hospitals will have “tele-ICU” technology by the end of the year. We went to Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center, where it’s already installed, to see it in action.

Dr. Mandy Halford, Senior Vice President & Chief Medical Informatics Officer for Covenant Health, described the service as an extension of the experience in which patients and their families are already accustomed. They can still expect to see medical staff entering rooms, including a physician and nurse.

“You’re still going to have interaction with your bedside team that is face-to-face. The great thing about this technology though, is that we have face-to-face interaction with the camera and with the audio that’s in the room.”

With the push of a button, patients, their families, and the hospital ICU medical team, have access to a critical care operations center in 90 seconds. The primary purpose is to connect bedside providers with critical care specialists, or intensivists, like Dr. Jesse Doers, Covenant’s physician leader.

The technology allows those specialists to monitor lab results and vital signs remotely, from a central location, and collaborate on patient treatment. “This allows us to help the small facilities to have an intensivist, and raise the care there. Better outcomes, less mortality, everything is improved for the patient,” Doers said. He also sees the service as a win for large hospitals.

He noted most patients admitted into an ICU don’t receive this type of specialized care. It’s why he thinks tele-ICU will help save lives. Dr. Doers emphasized “the bedside physician is still the physician in charge and still the one making the dominant number of decisions. I’m here to support them,” he said. “We work together and that way we can improve services, and improve care and improve outcomes.”

Doers said he still spends most of his time physically working inside hospitals, but thinks the technology of the operations center can be easier for treating patients. “I actually can do things better here, certain things, than I can in the hospital. The technology, the informatics…is unbelievable,” he added.

Martin Gibbs, Tele-ICU Nursing Manager, also noted the benefits for those living in rural areas, including the ability to remain in their community, with family, instead of traveling to larger facilities to have access to some critical care providers. Gibbs also mentioned the added resources help staff manage their workloads, a plus that he said is already resulting in better recruitment totals.

Covenant Health officials say the telehealth camera does not record audio or video and faces the while it is not in use.

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