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A Zoom-Enabled Virtual ‘Cockpit’ Leads to Reduced-Risk Covid-19 Care

April 14, 2020

Expertise in innovation and technology has enabled Hartford HealthCare to help its intensive care unit (ICU) specialist physicians maximize their ability to care for the sickest patients while minimizing their exposure to COVID-19.

These specialists, called intensivists, can now cover a system ICU bed capacity that is expected to swell from 175 to more than 500 as the number of hospitalized increases during the anticipated COVID-19 surge.

To do this, a virtual “cockpit” was built in Hartford HealthCare’s electronic health platform, Epic, to gather essential streams of patient data such as vital signs, ventilator settings, labs and CT scans and display them on remote workstations. When needed, the intensivist can virtually “enter” the room through a Zoom-enabled iPad.

This means that instead of physically moving in and out of each ICU room and searching through lab reports and flowsheets, the intensivists virtually round with all the information they need in one place. That one place can be anywhere. The “cockpit” can even be deployed on a laptop.

“Virtual ICU technology enables our dedicated intensivists to provide care even if they are under quarantine,” said Dr. Howard L. Haronian, a Heart & Vascular Institute cardiologist with digital health expertise who helped launch the program. “As we increase the number of ICU beds, we can’t increase the number of intensivists. They are a scarce resource.”

Virtual ICU coverage started last week at Hartford Hospital and should be in place in all Hartford HealthCare ICUs this week. At St. Vincent’s Medical Center in Bridgeport, which is not yet on Epic, a program supported by workstations on wheels has been developed.

“This capability to virtualize healthcare is the future,” said Dr. Barry Stein, Hartford HealthCare Chief Clinical Innovation officer.

This step is the latest clinical service HHC has enhanced with virtual capabilities, said Dr. Mark Prete, president of Hartford HealthCare Medical Group. In the past few weeks, we have introduced virtual care in ambulatory and acute care settings, including:

  • HHC Medical Group’s primary care physicians and specialists.
  • Clinical Command Center.
  • Behavioral Health Network.
  • Care for patients in HHC’s skilled and assisted nursing facilities.
  • eConsults enabling clinicians to remotely provide expert consultations on inpatient care units.

“We’ve virtualized a significant portion of our clinical environment over the last few weeks,” Dr. Stein said, noting that there have been more than 26,000 virtual health visits in the last three weeks. “It speaks to our culture, compassion, agility and vibrant innovation ecosystem. Most organizations can’t do this so quickly. It’s been a massive team effort.”

Not feeling well? Call your healthcare provider for guidance and try to avoid going directly to an emergency department or urgent care center, as this could increase the chances of the disease spreading.

For more information about virtual health, click here.

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