Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:28 pm
Aurora Health Care will be the first health care system in the state to add the eICU system, which uses software to monitor the status of intensive care unit patients.
The system should help save lives and reduce the time patients stay in ICUs by preventing complications, said Dr. Nick Turkal, Aurora’s senior clinical vice president.
The eICU system has been shown to reduce ICU mortality rates by 25%, decrease complications, shorten the lengths of hospital stays and reduce costs, Aurora officials say.
"At all hours, day and night, the patient’s condition is being monitored by a team of caregivers who are specially trained in intensive care medicine," Turkal said.
Reducing the length of patient ICU stays is critical to reducing health care costs, because ICU care is one of the largest medical expenses, Turkal said. Other health care provider systems that have used the eICU system have seen 13% to 20% reductions in the lengths of stays for ICU patients, he said.
"That is a significant cost savings for the people that are paying the bills," Turkal said. "It saves lives, and it saves money."
The system will first be installed at St. Luke’s Medical Center and Aurora Sinai Medical Center, both in Milwaukee, and at Aurora Medical Center in Kenosha. Over the next two years, the system will be installed in Aurora’s other hospitals.
The system, developed by Baltimore-based VISICU Inc., feeds patients’ vital signs to a remote, specially equipped electronic ICU, which is staffed constantly by physician specialists and critical care nurses.
The eICU software can detect small changes in a patient’s condition and alert specialists so they can intervene right away.
"If we can know before a patient gets into trouble that something is going wrong, it is easier to prevent complications," Turkal said.
Often, the software monitoring several different sets of data from a patient can detect a troublesome trend before a physician can, he said.
"It doesn’t replace the physicians and nurses at the bedside, but it does provide a further layer of protection," Turkal said.
Aurora will spend "several million dollars" over the next three years to connect all of its hospitals to the eICU system, Turkal said.
The system also uses cameras and audio equipment in each patient room, allowing a remote physician specialist to make visual assessments of a patient and communicate with physicians and nurses on site.
By the end of the year, Aurora will establish a command center for the eICU in a building Aurora owns near General Mitchell International Airport. The building is currently used for information services.
"All you need (at the eICU command center) is the equipment, the physician and the nurse," Turkal said. "Their role is strictly to staff the eICU."
Patients who will be monitored by the system will include those in intensive care with serious heart problems, but other intensive care patients with a wide array of other health problems also will be included in the system.
April 30, 2004 Small Business Times, Milwaukee