A good program at Sentara

Published 9:33 pm Thursday, December 29, 2016

One of the greatest advancements at Sentara Obici Hospital — a medical center that has benefited from many improvements through the years and continues to do so — has already resulted in a measurable improvement in patient outcomes, the single most important hospital metric.

Patients who are spending time in the intensive care unit now have nurses who can keep an eye on them 24 hours a day, seven days a week, thanks to the wonders of telemedicine.

Sentara’s eICU program connects Suffolk ICU beds with a nerve center in Norfolk, where experienced nurses watch the patients electronically, monitoring everything from their pulse and respiratory rates and other vital signs to their medications, whether they have IVs or drainage tubes, their recent lab results and more.

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Cameras in the rooms and two-way voice communication give the nurses in Norfolk a direct line to the rooms, so they can talk to those in the rooms and ensure the patients do not pull their lines out or get out of bed.

The nurses in Norfolk — aided by a doctor on duty there during the nighttime hours — are able to talk to the ICU nurses in Suffolk, give them advice, write prescriptions and suggest other adjustments to medical care that might have had to wait prior to the installation of the eICU program.

After Sentara first implemented eICU across its hospital system, the system saw a reduction of 25 percent in ICU mortality, spokesman Dale Gauding said. “People are going home that might have otherwise died in the hospital,” he said.

That’s a great outcome, and it augurs well for the future of telemedicine. We’re glad to see this program in place in Suffolk.