In medicine, one never has as many super-specialists, specialists or doctors as they need. At any point of time, the demand exceeds supply in the healthcare industry, especially when it comes to medical professionals.

Often, even when the equipment is state-of-art, there are not enough trained personnel to serve patients. This is the lacunae which GE Healthcare has tried to address, launching its electronic Intensive Care Unit (eICU) facility — Critinext. This project is being implemented in a partnership with Fortis Healthcare.

“One of the biggest challenges… today is access to healthcare. There are an estimated five million ICU admissions a year in this country, and not even 500 trained intensivists. In 25 years, the facilities in the metros have improved, but they continue to be a huge issue in Tier-II and Tier-III cities/towns,” says Amit Verma, Director, Critical Care Medicine, Fortis Escorts Heart Institute. There continues to be lack of adequate talent and the attempt is to improve the position by providing expert care through dedicated 5-mbps LAN lines.

The remote hospital is connected to the Central Command Centre, where specialists offer expert advice. Critinext equipment is wired to the devices in the local hospital’s ICU, ventilator pumps, patient monitors and the local health information system, if any.

Anurag Mishra, business leader, GE Healthcare-IT, explains that the equipment captures critical data relating to a patient at the local hospital, digitises close to 100-data points and transmits all information to the Central Command Centre real time. “With this, a doctor sitting in the super-speciality hospital can do as much as the medical personnel in the local hospital,” he says.

“The Command Centre works through the year, 24/7,” Dr. Verma says. “We provide guidance based on the inputs received by us through the software, can look at the patient on video monitors, grade the average length of stay in the ICU, guard against administration of unnecessary high-end antibiotics.”

The eICU has been a blessing many times, he adds. Last month, a five-year-old, diagnosed with Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome at the partner hospital in Raipur, was managed with ventilator support at the local hospital itself. He was able to walk home in just over 72 hours. Similarly, an elderly gentleman who collapsed at the Dehra Dun partner hospital had to be shifted to the ICU. While he could not have stood the rigours of travel to a higher institution, the eICU came to his rescue. “Since they had access to us at a critical time, we were able to save the patient,” Dr. Verma recalls.

“Unless there is a situation where there are insufficient equipment to handle the case, the need to shift the patient is eliminated. It is, however, a call that the medical experts have to take,” Mr. Mishra adds.

Currently, eICU links the Central Command Centre at Fortis Hospital, Delhi, to its institutions in Amritsar, Agra, Raipur and Dehra Dun, servicing 100 ICU beds. There are grand plans for taking this further. The big advantage is that the know-how requirements at remote hospitals are simple: “It is enough to know how to send an e-mail. Everything else is done by the software,” Dr. Verma says.

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