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JOURNAL ARTICLE
MULTICENTER STUDY

Association of telemedicine for remote monitoring of intensive care patients with mortality, complications, and length of stay

Eric J Thomas, Joseph F Lucke, Laura Wueste, Lisa Weavind, Bela Patel
JAMA 2009 December 23, 302 (24): 2671-8
20040555

CONTEXT: Telemedicine technology, which can enable intensivists to simultaneously monitor several intensive care units (ICUs) from an off-site location, is increasingly common, but there is little evidence to support its use.

OBJECTIVE: To assess the association of remote monitoring of ICU patients (ICU telemedicine [tele-ICU]) with mortality, complications, and length of stay (LOS).

DESIGN, SETTING, AND PATIENTS: Observational study conducted in 6 ICUs of 5 hospitals in a large US health care system to assess the use of tele-ICU. The study included 2034 patients in the preintervention period (January 2003 to August 2005) and 2108 patients in the postintervention period (July 2004 to July 2006).

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Hospital and ICU mortality, complications, and hospital and ICU survivors' LOS, with outcomes adjusted for severity of illness.

RESULTS: Local physicians delegated full treatment authority to the tele-ICU for 655 patients (31.1%) and authority to intervene only in life-threatening events for the remainder. Observed hospital mortality rates were 12.0% (95% confidence interval [CI], 10.6% to 13.5%) in the preintervention period and 9.9% (95% CI, 8.6% to 11.2%) in the postintervention period (preintervention to postintervention decrease, 2.1%; 95% CI, 0.2% to 4.1%; P = .03); observed ICU mortality rates were 9.2% (95% CI, 8.0% to 10.5%) in the preintervention period and 7.8% (95% CI, 6.7% to 9.0%) in the postintervention period (preintervention to postintervention decrease, 1.4%; 95% CI, -0.3% to 3.2%; P = .12). After adjustment for severity of illness, there were no significant differences associated with the telemedicine intervention for hospital mortality (relative risk, 0.85; 95% CI, 0.71 to 1.03) or for ICU mortality (relative risk, 0.88; 95% CI, 0.71 to 1.08). There was a significant interaction between the tele-ICU intervention and severity of illness (P < .001), in which tele-ICU was associated with improved survival in sicker patients but with no improvement or worse outcomes in less sick patients. There were no significant differences between the preintervention and postintervention periods for hospital or ICU LOS.

CONCLUSION: Remote monitoring of ICU patients was not associated with an overall improvement in mortality or LOS.

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