Metroplex Hospital in Killeen took a giant leap into the future with its new telemedicine ICU system.

The new system works like “medical Skype” with a wall-mounted, high-resolution camera and monitor in each of the 10 ICU patient rooms, keeping critical care doctors and nurses available 24/7.

A Metroplex physician or nurse can now speak with another doctor hundreds of miles away about a patient since both share the same medical data.

“Having a physician somewhere else monitoring patients’ vital signs, medications and data when we’re not available here improves the type of care and saves lives,” said Dr. Freddie Morales, director of critical care at Metroplex Hospital.

During Thursday’s demonstration, it took about 60 seconds for Morales to contact Dr. David Kung, a critical care physician at the Advanced ICU Care command center in New York City. Another center is in St. Louis.

Advanced ICU Care, the company that developed the system in 2006, provides monitoring by its critical care doctors and nurses around the clock on an as “needed basis.” The system is activated by a bedside ICU nurse or physician, but patients and family members also can have a two-way chat with a doctor remotely if the attending physician is not available.

“Patients like that quick response because they can get their questions answered quicker, which gives them a sense of security,” said Dr. David Nierman, regional medical director for Advanced ICU Care.

The physician at the remote location can use the camera to zoom in on a patient for a visual assessment, when necessary.

“Local physicians will continue to maintain control of their patients’ care, and we function as their partners to assist, and have access to the same information and follow through to their plan of care for that patient,” Nierman said.

Metroplex is the first hospital in the area, and one of 60 nationwide, to implement this system, which is provided at no additional cost to patients.

Karen Parrish, ICU nurse manager, has seen many medical advancements in her 34 years in critical care. Her staff of 22 ICU nurses are excited about using the system that took months of training to learn.

“A big impact will be the night-shift after physicians have gone home, and it will now be easier and faster to reach a doctor with this system,” Parrish said.

“It’s a change but a change for the better, and for those times when we need a doctor immediately, we’ll have support 24 hours a day,” said Kristen Simmons, ICU charge nurse.


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