VASNHS expanding ICU capabilities via telehealth

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The VA Southern Nevada Healthcare System is expanding its intensive care unit capabilities at the North Las Vegas VA Medical Center via a new telehealth partnership with the VA Midwest Health Care Network’s Regional Tele-ICU System, based in Minneapolis.

Called Tele-ICU, the new initiative provides local medical staff with around-the-clock bedside access to experts who are specially trained in the care of critically ill patients. With the push of a special “eLert” button, a doctor, nurse or family member at the North Las Vegas VAMC contacts a Tele-ICU Support Center in Minneapolis. An expert at the Tele-ICU Support Center will then camera into the room via a secure video link and offer assistance, making care recommendations based on a patient’s condition.

“Tele-ICU creates new opportunities for critical care teamwork,” said Dr. Robert Bonello, medical director for the Midwest Health Care Network’s Regional Tele-ICU System and doctor of critical care medicine at the Minneapolis VA Health Care System. “At the Tele-ICU Support Center, we can access the patient’s records (to include labs and images), monitor vital signs, perform assessments, and provide on-site medical professionals with real-time critical care support.”

“We’re excited to begin this partnership with the Minneapolis VA and have this added expertise available to our staff and Veteran patients,” said Dr. Ramu Komanduri, VASNHS chief of staff. “Working with our bedside staff to manage patients, the Tele-ICU Support Center provides an added layer of support with critical care experts, ensuring the best possible outcome.”

Nearly one in five VA ICU beds are equipped with Tele-ICU technology with the capability currently at 28 facilities in 15 states. In the future, the Tele-ICU will expand to 40 medical centers in 25 states. The VA also recently launched a partnership to provide Tele-ICU support to the Department of Defense, with Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., becoming the first DOD facility with the technology.

“To meet our expansion goals, we are opening a new Tele-ICU sub-hub in conjunction with the activation of our virtual support program at the VA Southern Nevada Healthcare System,” Dr. Bonello said. “This will allow VA intensivists to provide care to 20 additional VA medical centers around the country.”

At the North Las Vegas VA Medical Center, 12 rooms will be equipped with the Tele-ICU capability initially. However, as the VA continues to expand telehealth services, the technology could be used in other areas such as emergency departments, step-down units and in acute care rooms in the future.

“Nevada is currently ranked 47th nationally for physicians per capita, 48th for nurses, and 50th for behavioral health specialists,” Komanduri said. “By expanding our VA capabilities with a semi-virtual presence such as Tele-ICU, we are able to ensure our Veterans have direct access to the same level of care and services, regardless of where they live.”