MADISON (WKOW) — The pandemic has thrust the use of virtual meeting technology to the center of everyday life, and that even includes the intensive care unit.
Rural hospitals throughout Wisconsin are facing a daunting task caused by a new wave of COVID-19 cases in their emergency rooms corresponding with already full hospitals.
To assist, UW Health expanded the use of a program started in 2008, called the eICU program. As its name suggests, it is a virtual intensive care unit where nurses and doctors in a large room at a UW Health office building in Madison, monitor and provide care to patients in currently seven hospitals and eight ICUs across Wisconsin and northern Illinois 24 hours a day, according to Lynn Jacobs, nursing supervisor, eICU, UW Health.
“We’ve partnered with hospitals for many years now, and this program has allowed us to play a pivotal role during this terrible pandemic surge helping rural hospitals that are just not designed to handle this severity and volume of illness,” she said.
Doctors called intensivists and specially-trained ICU nurses and nursing assistants work in front of large banks of monitors that display, in real time, the same information doctors and nurses at the partner hospitals see. The monitors also allow the staff to activate a live video feed option into a patient room to assess and monitor the patients in bed, and they can alert partner hospital staff on site when trouble arises, Jacobs said.
At all of its partner hospitals and UW Health’s facilities, the eICU has helped care for about 1,300 COVID-19 ICU patients since the beginning of 2020. In 2021, about 25% of the eICU admissions with a diagnosis of COVID-19 have occurred in the last six weeks, Jacobs said.