Healthcare News & Insights

How technology will change ICU care in your hospital

The intensive care unit (ICU) is due for a makeover. Even though healthcare technology itself has improved, there haven’t been many advances in care administered in the ICU since the 1960s. Some doctors are working to change that by better integrating new tech advances into daily ICU processes. 

gettyimages-91156681Their efforts are discussed in detail in an article on the PBS website.

Endless alarms

One of the biggest problems providers are trying to solve is alarm fatigue in the ICU. Various types of equipment and devices, such as pumps and pulse-rate monitors, all end up making noise at once.

Eventually doctors and nurses end up tuning the sounds out, which can be dangerous for patients if an alarm is actually serious.

Often, these sounds are due to the inability of devices to communicate with each other. The article mentions what’s being done to change this – particularly, updating devices so they’re able to seamlessly transmit and share patient information.

This would not only reduce the likelihood of duplicate alarms sounding, it would also make the lives of clinical staff much easier. They’d have to deal with fewer machines setting off false alarms, so they can spend more time with patients.

Many medical device vendors have committed to making their products more capable of interoperability and sharing data between other devices from different manufacturers. So better device communication is coming in the not-too-distant future.

Time-saving sensors

Another development to save time and improve care in the ICU: the installation of sensors that would alert clinicians about critical tasks they must perform for patients.

For example, some patients must have their beds at specific angles to keep them from developing pneumonia. Most nurses currently check angles manually – even using protractors in some cases. But new sensors, costing as little as $2 each, can monitor the angle of a patient’s bed and alert nursing staff when it needs to be adjusted.

Apps to sort data

Better data filtering would also be beneficial in the ICU. Hospital equipment collects thousands of data points about each patient per day. Much of it is saved in the patient’s records via an electronic health records (EHR) system. But it’s not always saved in an organized way, so it’s hard for providers to find the information they need about each patient’s condition.

Several apps have been designed to change that and their creators hope they’ll become more common in the ICU as time goes on.

One app, called AWARE, is billed as an “electronic intern” that identifies crucial health details doctors need and organizes them based on the organs they affect.

EMERGE, another app, analyzes EHR data to let providers know if a proposed course of treatment or medication may be harmful to patients, which can be useful in preventing never events.

More tech benefits

Technology has a host of other benefits for the ICU. Many hospitals don’t have full-time critical care physicians on staff. However, facilities can take advantage of telemedicine and have intensivists remotely monitor patients’ conditions.

Plus, recent research shows that using telehealth in the ICU reduces mortality rates, since remote experts can quickly alert doctors and nurses to significant changes in a patient’s condition.

Some hospitals are even using technology so staff can make better personal connections with patients in the ICU. They’ve placed a tablet next to each bed so patients and their families can enter in personal details about themselves, including photos.

The tablets also allow them to note their recovery goals and any fears they have about their hospital stay. This helps staff give each patient more personalized care.

Next steps

Hospitals need to be aware these options exist for their ICUs. With these new technological advances in mind, it’s critical to look over your hospital’s current care protocols and decide which practices need to be updated.

Because patients in the ICU are critically ill, and hospitals are being judged on patient outcomes, it’s key to stay on top of developments regarding any technology that can help you boost the quality of the care your facility provides to its sickest patients.

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