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Telemedicine boosts Florida Hospital’s ICU services

At the push of a button day or night, out-of-state intensive care physicians and critical care nurses are notified to monitor and view patients in the intensive care units at the Sebring and Lake Placid Florida Hospital Medical Center locations.

The Telemedicine-ICU services have been in operation since June.

Florida Hospital Heartland Medical Center President and CEO Eric Stevens explained Friday that when someone is ill in the ICU, they have a “great medical team” locally taking care of them, but there is always a group of physicians on “over watch” who are seeing all the patients’ medical data.

The Tele-ICU physicians control a high-definition camera that can zoom in to show the “quality” of the patient’s skin and can see their pupils, he said. They can talk with family and staff members.

Stevens noted the area doesn’t have the depth and breadth of intensive care physicians, who are located in metropolitan areas such as Tampa or Orlando. About 4,000 people leave Highlands and Hardee counties every year for health care services.

Florida Hospital studied what medical services should stay close to home so family members can be near their loved ones, he said. With Tele-ICU services, “we have done something we can sustain from a cost perspective and we have great access into this great system of care. This is a big deal for us.”

Florida Hospital Sebring and Lake Placid are the first hospitals within 200 miles, and the first within Adventist Health Systems, to partner with Advanced ICU Care in implementing a Tele-ICU, according to Florida Hospital.

Advanced ICU co-founder and Vice President Isabelle Kopec said with their critical care team, “We can intervene and treat the patients as they need to be treated in a very timely manner.”

Advanced ICU Care has learned how to get better outcomes in the ICU and get the patients home sooner and in better condition, she said.

“What we have learned over the years is the involvement of a specially trained physician ... has a large impact,” Kopec said. “And, the technology that we are rolling out here enables us to do that.

“When I started my career in critical care medicine many years ago, I never imagined that I would be able to save lives and impact lives hundreds of miles away.”

Florida Hospital provided a demonstration of the system from an ICU room.

Soon after a push of a green button on the wall, intensive care doctor Dellice Dickhaus and a nurse manager communicated by audio and video with those in the ICU room. Dickhaus and the nurse were monitoring the room from the Advanced ICU Care center in St. Louis, Missouri.

Dickhaus explained that she can monitor a patient’s vital signs, medications, lab results and clinical status.

The two-way video access in each patient’s room enables face-to-face consultations between the bedside and Advanced ICU Care medical teams during periods of evaluation and when called on by the caregiver, according to Florida Hospital.

Stevens said there will be no additional cost to the patients.

The telemedicine equipment cost about $250,000, or about $10,000 per room, to install in the 12 ICU rooms in Sebring and 10 ICU rooms in Lake Placid. The continuing cost is $600 for the duration of the stay for each ICU patient.

According to a December Forbes report tele-health is about to experience explosive growth.

RNCOS Business Consultancy Services released a report predicting an 18.5 percent annual growth in tele-health worldwide through 2018, Forbes reported. An analyst at another market research firm, IHS, predicted the U.S. tele-health market will grow to $1.9 billion in 2018 from $240 million today, an annual growth rate of 56 percent.


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