Baptist Health last month began using the remote ICU observation - a first in South Florida - to monitor patients at South Miami Hospital. The center will begin monitoring ICU patients at Baptist Hospital next week and will expand to Mariners, Doctors and Homestead hospitals by the end of the year. The remote ICU observation center cost $8 million to launch and will cost another $4 million in annual operating costs. The center is linked to the hospitals by fiber-optic cable, with several levels of backup. By the end of the year, Baptist Health plans to be monitoring 120 ICU beds. According to the Miami Hearld,

The hospital doesn't charge extra for remote monitoring. It hopes to
save money with results. Sentara Healthcare, a hospital system in
Norfolk, Va., which in 2000 became the first to have an eICU, found it
decreased ICU mortality by 25 percent and length of stay by 17 percent.

A Cap Gemini Earnst & Young study of Sentara's operation found a
drop in complications and a 26 percent drop in the hospital's costs.
Savings per patient averaged $2,150, according to ProQuest Information,
a trade publication.

The story includes a great description of how the eICU system is used:

As Nelson talked to a journalist one recent morning, his screens
were filled with details on a 61-year-old woman. On the upper left
screen, he could see the woman suffered from hepatitis C and side
effects from liver problems. She was rushed to the ICU suffering from
pneumonia and an infection in the blood stream.

Her heart was beating 98 times a minute. If it reached 100, an alarm
would go off to warn a nurse in the unit to check her out, but in the
meantime, artificial intelligence software looked for trends, so that
if her heart rate was steadily increasing, for example, a nurse would
be alerted even if the level hadn't reached 100.

This woman had been admitted only two hours before, Nelson said. At
the four-hour mark, the software would do an analysis of her and then
warn of downward changes in her condition.

As lab tests came in, results were flagged yellow for borderline and red for ``highly abnormal.''

This woman was showing several yellows, as was to be expected, and one red -- for blood salt.

When Nelson saw a flutter in the woman's vital signs, he suspected
she was in discomfort and he turned on a camera that showed her tossing
and turning.

A bell sounded in the room when the camera went on, alerting both
staff and patient that they're being watched. ''We try to be extremely
protective of the privacy of the patient and the staff,'' Nelson said.

If there's an emergency, the remote staff can set off warning bells in
the ICU, but when they want to be really sure their concerns are passed
along, they do it the old-fashioned way: They pick up a telephone and

[Hat tip: iHealthBeat]