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Telemedicine Technology in Intensive Care Units Evaluated

Last Updated: December 29, 2009.

The use of telemedicine technology to remotely monitor multiple intensive care units at different hospital locations is unlikely associated with improvements in patient mortality rates, complications and length of hospital stay, according to an observational study published in the Dec. 23/30 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

TUESDAY, Dec. 29 (HealthDay News) -- The use of telemedicine (tele) technology to remotely monitor multiple intensive care units (ICUs) at different hospital locations is unlikely associated with improvements in patient mortality rates, complications and length of hospital stay, according to an observational study published in the Dec. 23/30 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Eric J. Thomas, M.D., of the University of Texas Medical School in Houston, and colleagues assessed the impact of tele-ICU on mortality rates, complications and length of stay in six ICUs at five hospital locations. The pre-intervention period (January 2003 to August 2005) of the study included 2,034 patients, while the post-intervention period (July 2004 to July 2006) included 2,108 patients.

The researchers found no significant differences in hospital mortality (relative risk, 0.85) or ICU mortality (relative risk, 0.88) with implementation of tele-ICU after adjusting for illness severity. Hospital or ICU length of stay remained the same during the pre-intervention and post-intervention time periods. However, in more severely ill ICU patients, the tele-ICU approach improved survival but provided no benefit in more mild to moderately ill patients.

"One interesting unanticipated observation was an apparent benefit among sicker patients, which highlights the need for careful evaluation of what each tele-ICU means, in terms of specific changes in ICU care relative to other alternative approaches and of which patients might benefit," the authors of an accompanying editorial write.

Two authors served as medical directors of ICUs involved in the study.

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