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Rural Telemed Program 'Literally a Life-Saver'

Alexandra Wilson Pecci, for HealthLeaders Media, June 22, 2011

The system has paid off in terms of patient safety, Hensing said. The health system has seen double-digit reductions in overall hospital mortality, overall critical care mortality, overall length of stay in the ICU, and overall reductions in length of stay for ICU patients' entire hospital stay.

"We have reductions somewhere between 15 and 20% in all of those categories," Hensing said.

So far, Ogallala is one of only a few of Banner's rural facilities using eICU technology, but by this time next year, Hensing says the system will be rolled out to all other facilities with critical care beds. The implementation has gone smoothly so far, with enormous support from the hospital staff, patients, and their families.

According to Wyatt, the nurses at Ogallala have been enthusiastic. At first,  physicians were a little leery of the idea of another doctor telling them what to do, but for the most part they're on board now, too.

"It's no different than calling up one of your doctor buddies," for advice, she said. Moreover, the system helps the hospital get by with stretched-thin physicians. Wyatt adds that since the hospital is close to a lake and an interstate highway, "we can get some really bad traumas." With thousands of people coming into the ED on the weekends and only one physician, the program is literally a life-saver.

The key to the successful rollout, Hensing says, is full dedication to the end result. All of their hospitals needed to be onboard in order for Banner Health to implement it over a period of several years, he said.

"This is a long process…the key to making it work is appropriate accountable leadership to make sure that the model is applied everywhere uniformly," he said. "This was patient safety issue; we were going to put it everywhere we operated, all of our beds, and making that happen with the appropriate steadfast leadership was crucial to our success."


Alexandra Wilson Pecci is a managing editor for HealthLeaders Media.

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