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Critical care patients to benefit from a first-of-its-kind monitoring system

Thursday, April 08, 2004

Life-saving technology will provide best-quality care, improve outcomes and reduce costs

MILWAUKEE, Senior clinical leaders of Aurora Health Care today announced a new life-saving technology for intensive care units that is the first of its kind in Wisconsin.

The system uses telemedicine technology, including early warning software and advanced video and electronic monitoring, to connect off-site critical care specialists to ICU patients. The system will be linked to more than 200 intensive care beds at Aurora’s hospitals throughout eastern Wisconsin, providing a level of monitoring for critically ill patients that goes well beyond what is possible today.

The new eICU system, developed by Baltimore-based VISICU Inc., provides high-tech tools that allow physician specialists to monitor critical care patients 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

“Our new eICU system will improve care and save lives,” said Nick Turkal, M.D., Aurora’s senior clinical vice president. “We are pleased to be able to bring this innovative new technology to Wisconsin.”

Dr. Turkal explained that the eICU adds yet another backup system to enhance the safety of Aurora’s sickest patients. “The system constantly monitors patients for signs of trouble, allowing for the most rapid and effective response whenever necessary,” he said. “It doesn’t replace the physicians and nurses at the bedside, but it does provide a further layer of protection.”

In an intensive care unit connected to the eICU system, patients’ vital signs and laboratory data will be fed not only to on-site doctors and nurses but also to a new, remote, specially equipped electronic ICU. Staffed around the clock by physician specialists and critical care nurses, the eICU facility serves as a high-tech centralized patient safety net.

The eICU software can detect even small changes in a patient’s condition and alert specialists so that they can intervene as soon as a problem is detected. The eICU system has been shown to reduce ICU mortality rates by 25%, decrease complications, shorten the length of hospital stays and reduce costs.

The eICU system also employs high-quality cameras and audio equipment in each patient room, allowing a remote physician specialist to make visual assessments of a patient’s condition and communicate in real time with physicians and nurses on site.

“This system brings tremendous peace of mind to patients and their families,” Dr. Turkal said. “At all hours, day and night, the patient’s condition is being monitored by a team of caregivers who are specially trained in intensive care medicine.”

The technology addresses a continuing challenge for today’s health care providers, and that is the shortage of physicians who specialize in intensive care medicine. The eICU system will expand the reach of Aurora’s intensivists, allowing them to direct the care of patients at even smaller, rural hospitals, which typically would not have that level of expertise available.

Aurora’s initial implementation of the eICU system will begin soon at St. Luke’s Medical Center and Aurora Sinai Medical Center, both in Milwaukee, and at Aurora Medical Center in Kenosha. Over the next two years, the system will be extended to Aurora’s other acute-care hospitals across eastern Wisconsin.

“We continually challenge ourselves to look for better ways to meet the needs of our patients, and this technology is an example of that philosophy in action,” said Aurora President G. Edwin Howe. “This innovative approach to intensive care will lead to better care and better outcomes.”

Michael J. Breslow, M.D., VISICU’s executive vice president for clinical research, said: “VISICU is pleased to partner with Aurora to implement the eICU Solution throughout its facilities in eastern Wisconsin. As a recognized leader in patient safety, Aurora will be setting a new standard of care for the sickest and most vulnerable patients. We applaud their vision, leadership and the commitment of the clinical team to bring this important patient safety and quality initiative to Wisconsin.”

Aurora Health Care is a not-for-profit Wisconsin health care provider and a nationally recognized leader in efforts to improve the quality of care. Aurora offers services at sites in 80 communities throughout eastern Wisconsin.

Contact: Sue Pierman (414-647-6432)

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