By: Dr. Ken Tegtmeyer
While “telemedicine” in some form has existed since the 1970s at least, and regular use and support of telemedicine has been growing over the last two decades, it took the pandemic to really push the limits of what is possible, and allow so much of the general public to understand its potential. Telemedicine will also play a big role in the new critical care building, and in particular the PICU. All of the beds for the PICU, CICU, BMT and complex airway unit are pre-wired for telemedicine, similar to what was set-up for the Liberty campus. Meaning there will be a camera able to focus on the patient, and the large LCD can convert from TV viewing to a monitor for telemedicine. The camera will default to being off, and turned away from the patient to maintain privacy while not actively in use.
So why telemedicine in our new unit? Lots of reasons. A couple of the obvious ones, we have a lot of patients who are far from home, usually leaving a lot of family members behind, sometimes for extended periods. One of the ways we envision using the telemedicine set-up is to help patients both stay in touch with their families, but also those distant families to participate in the care, get updates from the ICU team and consulting teams, and overall help with communication. One challenge we frequently have with our international patients is arranging time for an interpreter. The telemedicine set-up will include ease access to remote interpreters who will be able to see the family and patient as well as the care team, and be rapidly available for timely communication.
The telemedicine set-up will allow for several other possibilities, some of which we are just beginning to explore. We have used telemedicine successfully to help our resuscitation efforts at the Liberty Campus from the PICU, and while we will still have the same response to sickest patients in the PICU, the telemedicine set-up can allow for additional eyes and ears to help guide patient management. It will also help with our response to the other units within the new Critical Care Building, particularly the complex airway unit and the bone marrow transplant unit, when they have patients they may feel need transfer to the PICU. We are just beginning to explore the possibilities for what Telemedicine within the PICU might allow for patients and families, as well as the medical team, but are excited for the possibilities.