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Turning Night into Day: Globalizing Critical Care

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Night shifts are tough on everyone, with shift workers having higher rates of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and sleep disorders.

For doctors, nurses, and other medical workers who pull nightshift duty, more than their own health may be at risk: fatigue can lead to inattention, which might diminish the quality of patient care.

But what if you could turn night into day?

An Emory project developed by Timothy Buchman, founding director of the Emory Critical Care Center, and Cheryl Hiddleson, director of the Emory eICU (electronic Intensive Care Unit) Center, does just that, by sending medical workers to the other side of the globe.

Using remote eICU technology by Philips, Emory Healthcare workers begin their day in a control room at the Royal Perth Hospital in Australia, which is 12 hours ahead of Atlanta time.

Emory Healthcare has had eICU technology for years, with specialized cameras, video monitors, microphones, and speakers at several hospitals. “Tele-ICU medicine provides another option when a bedside intensivist is not available,” Buchman says. “Patients and providers benefit not only from having remote access to medical experts but also because these experts can be available around the clock.” The eICU program was shown to reduce costs and length of patient stays and helped ease the shortage of critical care intensivists.

The Australia venture takes eICU care a step further: “We believe we can provide critical care to a patient no matter where they are in the world,” Buchman says. Emory Healthcare providers come to work in Perth at 7 a.m. to cover the night shift remotely in Emory Healthcare ICUs (beginning at 7 p.m.) The time change reverses two of the largest drawbacks of critical care night staffing: a shortage of senior clinicians and the toll that working nights takes on caregivers and attention levels. “We tested the concept for six months in Sydney, and the benefits were immense for both provider and patient,” says Buchman. “The providers worked more efficiently and felt better because they were working during daylight hours, which reduced burnout.” 

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Emory cares for ICU patients remotely, turning 'night into day' from Australia (5/9/18)

Video: Emory eICU (5/17/18)

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