How we’re helping our sickest patients stay closer to home

April 23, 2013
David Johnson’s asthma had landed him in the hospital once before. This time, he also was running a high fever.

So, on a Monday morning last November, David’s wife, Tracy, took him to Fairview Lakes Medical Center’s Emergency Department in Wyoming, Minn. There, he was diagnosed with pneumonia.

A year earlier, he would have been transferred to University of Minnesota Medical Center, Fairview—in Minneapolis, more than 30 miles away. But, there was no need to transfer David, thanks to the Telemedicine–Intensive Care Unit (Tele-ICU) program, now a little over a year old.

Everyone working together
From “the Hub”—on the East Bank of University of Minnesota Medical Center, Fairview—a team of critical care nurses and highly specialized critical care physicians work in tandem with ICU teams at five other Fairview locations.

Those sites include Fairview’s hospitals in Burnsville, Edina, Princeton, Wyoming and at the University of Minnesota Medical Center, Fairview’s West Bank campus.

Technology in David’s room at Fairview Lakes allowed the team in the Minneapolis hub to have full knowledge of his condition 24/7 and augment Fairview Lakes’ care with an added layer of assessment and intervention, as necessary.

High-quality care, closer to home
Traveling to Minneapolis would have made David’s hospitalization much more difficult for this family. For one thing, the shorter distance from their East Bethel home to Fairview Lakes made coordinating their 10-year-old daughter’s before- and after-school arrangements easier.

The Tele-ICU program not only allows patients and their families to be closer to home, but it also results in better outcomes. Critical care readmission rates, mortality rates and the amount of time patients are on ventilators have declined in the year since the program began.

“In a couple of cases, Fairview Lakes and Fairview Northland were able to manage a patient on a ventilator for up to two weeks,” says Craig Weinert, MD, Tele-ICU medical director. “In the past, the patients would have been sent off to the medical center within a couple of days.”

‘Thanks To Fairview...our lives together will continue’
David was in the ICU for 10 days, and he returned home on Thanksgiving and is back at work. He doesn’t remember most of his ICU stay, says Tracy, but she remembers it vividly.

“If he had gone to any other hospital, he would surely have died,” says Tracy, “but, thanks to Fairview’s professional staff, our lives together will continue.”
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