AGH, PRMC Join Critical Care Partnership

BERLIN – Faced with the same shortages of critical care doctors plaguing hospitals across the state and nation, officials from Atlantic General Hospital (AGH) and Peninsula Regional Medical Center (PRMC) announced this week the facilities are joining a partnership with other rural hospitals in the area to combine resources through technological advances.

AGH and PRMC officials on Monday announced plans to greatly improve the quality of patient care in their facilities by implementing the VISICU eICU Program in each of their intensive care units. Made possible by a $3 million grant from CareFirst BlueCross-BlueShield, the eICU marries medicine and technology to bring critical care physicians to areas facing a shortage in the specialists.

The six hospitals participating in the program, including AGH and PRMC, joined together two years ago to find a solution to the growing critical care physician shortage. The resulting Maryland eCare is now the largest collaboration of independent hospitals in the country.

Studies have shown improved patient outcomes and decreased lengths of stay for patients in intensive care units (ICUs) managed by critical care specialists. However, many hospitals in rural areas such as Worcester do not have the resources to keep the specialists, also known as intensivists, on site 24 hours a day.

Instead, patients needing specialized critical care are often transported to other facilities around the state that have the specialists on hand or are stabilized until specialized critical care physicians can be brought to them. The program allows partnering hospitals to share resources electronically to fill the void.

“Bringing this technology to rural Maryland hospitals like AGH and PRMC means patients and families will have better care close to home,” said Dr. Marc T. Zubrow, director of Maryland eCare. “This program enables us to act quickly and prevent complications. It leads to improved patient outcomes and getting patients home with their families more quickly and more safely.”

Essentially, the technology utilized in the Maryland eCare program acts as a proxy or stand-in for critical care physicians who can’t always be there. Complementing local ICU care, eICU critical care physicians and nurses based at a monitoring center at Christiana in Delaware closely watch patient conditions  remotely through video and audio technology combined with intelligent monitoring and alarm systems. The eICU’s remote center closely monitors patients for any physical change and immediately alerts local caregivers and recommends corrective action.