Baptist eICU saving lives, improving hospitals

{}On any given day, inside the Baptist Eye Center{}on the Baptist Hospital campus in Little Rock, there more than{}100 patients, potentially, more than 200, being watched, and monitored, but, the patients are not{}in the center.{}Some of them are not even in Little Rock.

{}It's called eICU, where a team of doctors and critical care nurses monitors patients 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, in hospitals all over the state.

{}"It does not replace staff at the bedside. We really are a second pair of eyes, to assist with the care of the patient," said Vicki Norman, eICU Director.

{} "I look at ones they ask me about, or the bedside nurse calls me about. We've had a few patients today that were having problems and they ask us to take a look," said Dr. Neal Beaton, a pulmonary specialist.

{}The specialists are watching the patients in their rooms, vital signs, lab results: anything that can help them heal.

{}Software analyzes data, and provides alerts, to head off problems, sometimes before they even happen.

{}"This is the future of medicine in the rural settings," said Margaret West, CEO of Magnolia Regional Medical Center, one of Baptist's new additions. Doctors and nurses in Little Rock are watching{}4 ICU beds in Magnolia.{}In rural areas,{}that can mean access to specialty care patients may not otherwise get, and it can solve a hospital's problems at the same time.

{}"It's getting hard to recruit physicians to smaller areas, because physicians are wanting to go into group practices, where they have more time with their families. So, again, this gives us that opportunity, when we'll never be able to recruit to a rural area," said West.

{}Using state of art technology, and{}being available almost the instant there is a need, can even help some hospitals keep the doors open, by getting better outcomes for patients.

{}"We know those things decrease their length of stay. It decreases complication rates. Hospitals aren't paid for complications that are preventable. It's bad for patients when things happen that can be prevented and avoided, by practicing evidence-based, the latest, good care," said Norman.

{}In all cases, it means keeping patients near their families, when the natural inclination is to move them to a bigger hospital for better care. It's catching on.

{}The eICU is connected to 20 hospitals, 13 not otherwise connected to Baptist Health, with the most recent addition, Ft. Leonard Wood Army Hospital in South Central Missouri, making Baptist the first civilian entity to contract with the Department of Defense to provide care to active duty military.

{}Baptist is installing and testing equipment in Malvern, to bring Baptist Health Medical Center{}Hot Spring County online soon.{}The next step is mobile eICU carts.

{}"The care can go where the patient is. That may mean in a disaster situation. You can expand to take care of multiple patients, in non-traditional{}ICU settings. When people have surges of influenza, or accidents," said Norman.

{}It can also be used in other areas of the hospital, like the NICU, where babies in trouble go after delivery.

{}"Really the technology is only as limited as the creativity of the user," said Norman.

{}Baptist contracts with each hospital individually for their eICU services. Individual patients are not billed for it.