Allegheny Health Network (AHN) and Highmark Health recently announced the launch of a new virtual intensive care solution which combines innovative telehealth technology and the clinical expertise of AHN intensivists for centralized, 24/7 monitoring and management of critically ill patients at six of the network’s hospitals across western Pennsylvania.
The TeleICU program virtually connects a centrally located team of AHN board-certified critical care physicians, nurses and data assistants with bedside hospitalists and nurses in intensive care units (ICUs) at AHN’s Allegheny Valley Hospital, Canonsburg Hospital, Grove City Hospital, Jefferson Hospital and Wexford Hospital in the Greater Pittsburgh region, and Saint Vincent Hospital in Erie, Pa.
The program utilizes the FDA-approved eCareManager telehealth software platform from Philips to support continuous ICU monitoring through an infrastructure of real-time monitors, electronic medical records and two-way, audio-visual conferencing. Powered by advanced clinical algorithms, eCareManager synthesizes and translates patient data into meaningful information which supports decision-making among the care teams and prompts rapid interventions for at-risk patients.
Health systems across the country have increasingly adopted virtual ICU models to supplement care at smaller hospitals with 24/7 intensivist coverage, while providing more efficient and effective care, according to Tariq Cheema, MD, division chief of pulmonary, critical care, sleep and allergy medicine at AHN.
AHN launched its first virtual ICU program with a provider partner in 2019. This program proved to be a valuable resource for the network and patients throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, supporting response and care planning.
“The extra layer of care afforded by our virtual ICU model has provided clinicians across AHN with unprecedented support in the management of critically ill patients, while also enabling patients to more comfortably stay at hospitals closer to home,” said Dr. Cheema. “With the launch of TeleICU, we are pleased to transition our virtual ICU service fully in-house, extending the expertise of our own intensivists across the network and further enhancing the quality of care that we provide.”
Studies have shown that patients receiving telemedicine ICU services may have decreased mortality rates and may be discharged from the hospital sooner than patients who receive traditional ICU care without round-the-clock, onsite intensivist care.
Following a study of 154,000 ICU patients, researchers from the Cleveland Clinic reported in 2021 that patients who received ICU telemedicine were 18% less likely to die and were released from the hospital an average of two days sooner.
The TeleICU command center is located at 4 Allegheny Center (4AC) on Pittsburgh’s Northside nearby AHN Allegheny General Hospital. It is accompanied by other AHN virtual care programs hosted at the facility such as the ‘Digital Nursing Program’ in which digital nurses partner with bedside nurses to interact with patients; and ‘Virtual Sitter’ which utilizes remote video monitoring of hospitalized patients who are identified as being at-risk of self-injury.
Also based at 4AC is the ‘One-Call Center’ which provides referring physicians with a 24/7 phone line to request a physician referral, emergency admissions and inter-facility patient transfers; and ‘AHN Care Connect’ which manages the 412.DOCTORS line to help patients schedule appointments and get the care they need.
“This facility has emerged as a virtual health hub that is host to some of the most advanced technologies and tools which support our caregivers and staff in delivering high-quality patient care, helping to improve outcomes and enhance the overall health care experience for both patients and their caregivers,” said Ashis Barad, MD, pediatric gastroenterologist and AHN’s chief digital information officer.
TeleICU at AHN is part of Highmark Health’s Living Health strategy aimed at leveraging digital technology, including virtual care options and remote medical devices, to bring convenient, high quality health support and care to people where and when they need it.
“While health systems nationwide continue to face staffing shortages and budget constraints, our virtual health strategy is designed in part to help providers overcome these persistent challenges while delivering patient-centered, value-driven care,” said Tony Farah, MD, executive vice president, chief medical and clinical transformation officer, Highmark Health. “The collaborative launch of TeleICU with AHN as the pacesetter marks yet another important milestone along our journey to transform health care.”
About Allegheny Health Network
Allegheny Health Network (AHN.org), a Highmark Health company, is an integrated healthcare delivery system serving the greater Western Pennsylvania region. The Network is composed of 14 hospitals, ambulatory surgery centers, Health + Wellness Pavilions, an employed physician organization, home and community-based health services, a research institute and a group purchasing organization. The Network provides patients with access to a complete spectrum of advanced medical services, including nationally recognized programs for primary and emergency care, cardiovascular disease, cancer care, orthopedic surgery, neurology and neurosurgery, women’s health, diabetes and more. AHN employs approximately 21,000 people, has more than 2,600 physicians on its medical staff and serves as a clinical campus for Drexel University College of Medicine and the Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine.
About Highmark Health
Highmark Health, a Pittsburgh, PA-based enterprise that employs more than 42,000 people who serve millions of Americans across the country, is the parent company of Highmark Inc., Allegheny Health Network, enGen, and Helion. Highmark Inc. and its subsidiaries and affiliates provide health insurance to 7 million members in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Delaware, and New York, as well as dental insurance, and related health products through a national network of diversified businesses. Allegheny Health Network is an integrated delivery network in western Pennsylvania comprised of 14 hospitals, more than 2,600 affiliated physicians, ambulatory surgery centers, an employed physician organization, home and community-based health services, a research institute, a group purchasing organization, and health and wellness pavilions. enGen is focused on meeting the information technology platform and other business needs of the Highmark Health enterprise as well as unaffiliated health insurance plans by providing proven business processes, expert knowledge, and integrated cloud-based platforms. Helion works with payers to cultivate high-performing networks while empowering providers to operate at their best. To learn more, visit www.highmarkhealth.org
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