Telemedicine initiative is reducing ICU mortalities at The Mayo Clinic

Feb. 22, 2018

The Mayo Clinic has long pursued the possibilities of telemedicine. It currently has projects associated with many different healthcare fields. These include concussion monitoring and long-term treatment, remote consultations within specialist areas like newborn resuscitation, a telestroke program for quicker patient diagnosis, and the use of telepresence robots to virtually visit distant hospitals or even patient homes.

The Clinic has also developed its own telemedicine app that can be used to schedule appointments or just seek out advice on things like nutrition and fitness.

Mayo Clinic’s network of Intensive Care Units now have additional experts monitoring patients. The research and treatment facility has built a central telemedicine hub to monitor half a dozen ICUs at once, boosting the level of care available to its patients.

The technology of using video conferencing to link patients and doctors in real-time visual conversation is moving beyond experiment to be implemented as a practical healthcare aid.

The link between the Mayo Clinic and telemedicine is especially strong, given the former’s research into the latter. Now the partnership is creating real-world solutions that can be copied and applied in healthcare settings across the country.

The Mayo Clinic’s new telemedicine hub operates out of a hospital in Rochester, Minnesota. From this central room, a series of interactive video conferencing links provide ICU specialists with face-to-face instant communication with eight other ICUs in hospitals as far-flung as Wisconsin and Georgia.

With round-the-clock supervision, experts in the Rochester hospital have access to all the information housed on-site at each remote hospital, as well as direct links to local staff. The remote monitoring program has proved so successful it has led to a dramatic improvement in mortality rates at some locations, with some reporting rates 73% lower than expected.

There’s a similar program running in New Mexico, called Project Echo from the University of New Mexico, The ECHO model breaks down the walls between specialty and primary care. It links expert specialist teams at an academic ‘hub’ with primary care clinicians in local communities – the ‘spokes’ of the wheel model. Together, they participate in weekly teleECHO clinics, which are like virtual grand rounds, combined with mentoring and patient case presentations.

The clinics are supported by basic, widely available teleconferencing technology. During teleECHO clinics, primary care clinicians from multiple sites present patient cases to the specialist teams and to each other, discuss new developments relating to their patients, and determine treatment.

Specialists serve as mentors and colleagues, sharing their medical knowledge and expertise with primary care clinicians. Essentially, ECHO creates ongoing learning communities where primary care clinicians receive support and develop the skills they need to treat a particular condition, such as Hepatitis C or chronic pain. As a result, they can provide comprehensive, best-practice care to patients with complex health conditions.

Combining the Mayo Clinic’s and Project Echo’s projects might result in central hubs built to aid patients, hospitals, and doctors. These hubs could link to community healthcare facilities across the country where expert, virtual advice could guide general practice nurses and doctors through their primary care roles. It works in theory for emergency rooms, delivery rooms, and private practice as well, forming a network of shared expert resources on hand via telemedicine to deliver premium healthcare.

Video Conferencing Daily story

Project Echo

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