SAN DIEGO - Naval Medical Center San Diego (NMCSD) debuted a new video teleconferencing system to consult Naval Hospital Camp Pendleton (NHCP) staff on critically-ill patients May 28, with the first telemedicine patient encounter occurring May 30.
The TeleCritical Care Unit (TCCU) enables NMCSD Intensive Care Unit (ICU) physicians to make 'virtual rounds' remotely to NHCP's most critically-ill patients. The expected benefit is to improve patient outcomes by allowing earlier intervention and when required, transfer of the sickest patients, according to Cmdr. Steven Escobar, head, NMCSD pulmonary department.
Medical teleconferencing systems like NMCSD's TCCU are relatively new to military and civilian healthcare. Less than 10 percent of civilian ICU beds are monitored by this technology, and there is only one other facility in the Department of Defense to operate a TCCU monitoring station, according to Cmdr. Konrad Davis, medical director of critical care services at NMCSD.
Tripler Army Medical Center (TAMC) in Hawaii has operated a TCCU since 2003, initially connecting with Naval Hospital Guam, followed by Korea, and more recently adding Japan and Okinawa in 2012, according to Davis.
Data from the TAMC system showed improved patient outcomes and significant cost savings, he added. But it is not designed to be a stand-alone service.
TCCU is only one aspect of NMCSD's ICU support to NHCP. NMCSD currently screens patients using a Nursing Early Warning Sheet (NEWS) every day. This form lists suggested consult and transfer criteria for treating prospective TCCU patients. NMCSD staff also teaches Fundamentals of Critical Care Support at NHCP twice a year, aimed at improving the first 24 hours of a critical patient's care.
Getting the TCCU operational took approximately 10 months to plan, order, install the system, and ultimately connect it to the NHCP system using high-definition bandwidth.
Davis is hopeful about the future of the TCCU and its impact on military medicine.
"This technology allows us to project specialist expertise virtually anywhere sufficient bandwidth and connectivity can be established. It has significant potential for the military, since we often travel and deploy to remote and austere environments where such expertise might not otherwise be available. The ability to offer a wide array of services to smaller or remote healthcare facilities without having to staff that facility also has the potential for significant cost-savings."
NMCSD and NHCP fall under Navy Medicine West (NMW) regional command which ensures operational readiness and force health protection overseeing command and control of 10 Military Treatment Facilities (MTFs) accredited by the Joint Commission and two Dental Centers within the Pacific region while providing guidance for healthcare delivery; closely monitoring individual readiness and contingency response capability; ensuring efficient and effective utilization of funding and personnel resources; and encouraging system optimization and innovation while assessing future strategies. NMW is staffed by 16,900 active, reserve and civilian professionals who provide outstanding health services to more than 776,000 patients.
For more information on Naval Medical Center San Diego, visit http://www.med.navy.mil/sites/nmcsd, www.facebook.com/nmcsd, or www.twitter.com/NMC_SD.