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CNN Today

Technology Making Remote Intensive Care Units Feasible

Aired August 11, 2000 - 1:34 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: Hospital ICU patients require and are supposed to receive the most intense and attentive care, hence the name intensive care unit, but with a shortage of ICU doctors, that's not always the case.

CNN's Ann Kellan now on how new technology is helping to bridge the gap.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED DOCTOR: Get me his nurse on the phone.

ANN KELLAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): An intensive care patient is in trouble. A doctor, seven miles away, advises the nurse what to do.

UNIDENTIFIED DOCTOR: And how many units?

KELLAN: Dr. Gene Burke works in one of the United States' first remote intensive care units, run by IC-USA.

DR. BRIAN ROSENFELD, CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER, IC-USA: This is truly a, you know, a quantum leap in care delivery for patients in the intensive care unit.

UNIDENTIFIED DOCTOR: Hello, Randy.

KELLAN: Here's how it works, like most doctors, this one makes rounds in the morning, then leaves the hospital, available by phone or page. That's when a three-number remote intensive care team, made up of a doctor, nurse, and administrator step in from seven miles away.

UNIDENTIFIED DOCTOR: He's had minimal secretions.

KELLAN: They're briefed on each patient.

UNIDENTIFIED DOCTOR: He is about to get a new arterial line.

KELLAN: Remote-control video cameras let them look at the patient. Monitors feed back vital signs and detailed medical records are available on computer.

UNIDENTIFIED DOCTOR: Acute respiratory distress. SHEILA FOOTE, INTENSIVE CARE NURSE: I called out and said call the Doc in the box and they picked up the phone, called. Blood's into the room, camera's into the room and within minutes the problem was solved.

KELLAN: That instead of losing time waiting for a physician to answer a page. Tens of thousands die every year in U.S. hospitals from avoidable complications. This system is designed to reduce errors and treat problems earlier before serious complications develop.

While some doctors welcome the assistance, others are more skeptical of the system's effectiveness. Hospital administrators claim it won't replace the doctor at the bedside.

DR. ROD HOCHMAN, SENTARA HEALTHCARE: I need to emphasize, there's nothing like personal touch in being next to a patient talking to a patient face-to-face. What this lets us do is really leverage what's a very limited resource that we have sometimes, which are intensive care physicians.

UNIDENTIFIED DOCTOR: We're going to help you breathe until we get more fluid out of your lungs.

KELLAN: Thanks, among other things, to early burnouts, there's a severe shortage of ICU doctors. Half of all intensive care patients in the U.S. do not have access to specialists now. Rosenfeld says remote intensive care may be the only way to spread their expertise around the world.

Ann Kellan, CNN, Norfolk, Virginia.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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