Health Team

Camera never blinks in the electronic ICU

Posted September 5, 2012 5:45 p.m. EDT
Updated September 10, 2012 5:41 a.m. EDT

Monitors also doctors and nurses to keep a remote eye on patients in the electronic intensive care unity

— Far removed from WakeMed's hospitals in Raleigh and Cary is a room called The Core, where registered nurses and physicians use sophisticated software to remotely monitor their patients.

Although the are miles away, it's as if they are at the bedside of up to 88 intensive care patients.

"I like to think of this as air traffic control for nursing, kind of," said Chris Smith, a registered nurse with WakeMed. "So, we're watching all the patients to make sure that everybody stays safe and that all the best practices are implemented."

The monitors inside The Core don't replace nurses or doctors in the hospital. Their job is to keep a closer eye on subtle changes over time in things like oxygen levels, blood pressure, blood work or urinalysis results.

WakeMed is only the second hospital in the state to implement this system, but more are popping up around the country.

"You're seeing the changes in real time," said Dr. Bill Lane, medical director of the WakeMed EICU. "As quick as the lab is entered, it's posted. If it's outside certain levels, it gives you an alert."

A software program called E-Care Manager posts "red" for a serious alert and "yellow" for caution. That's when these monitors contact nurses or doctors in the hospital.

"And hopefully correcting things earlier - recognizing patients who are becoming worse quicker," Lane said.

A remote-controlled camera can read a nurse's name tag or small print on the far wall.

"So the patients can see us in their room and hear us, and we can see them and hear them as well," Smith said.

There's no extra cost to patients. The idea is that it will save the hospital and patients money in the long run.

"Most importantly, which is hard to judge by money, I think it saves lives," Lane said.