An article from Ars, summarizing a recent finding regarding the use of telemedicine in the ICU. The discussion is especially telling, and points a common problem. Technology is part of, but not the entire answer, and unless applied intelligently, is just an expensive white whale.
To an extent, this implementation of telemedicine was a high-tech solution suffering from some low-tech limits, primarily the lack of a unified medical records system. Although data from monitoring equipment was displayed in real-time, other electronic records couldn’t be shared between the ICUs and the central facility. As a result, progress notes were faxed in daily, and orders had to be printed out from an electronic copy before the facilities hosting a patient can act on them.
The fact that other studies of tele-ICU arrangements cited by the authors have shown some benefits lends some credence to the suggestion that the specifics of this arrangement had a strong influence on the patient outcomes.
The mixed results suggest the actual mechanics of implementing telemedicine in the ICU may have a profound influence on its effectiveness. It’s a useful result, in that it should direct further research into identifying the practical considerations that determine how to make the most of the opportunities technology is providing. But it also serves as a caution that simply throwing new technology at a problem can’t be expected to bring about a satisfying solution.
JAMA, 2009. 302(24) DOI unavailable.