‘It’s definitely saving lives': Baptist Health System says eICU program critical during COVID-19 pandemic

Hospital team monitors critically ill patients from off-site command center

SAN ANTONIO – As patients with COVID-19 fill San Antonio hospitals, monitoring them remotely has become critical. A Baptist Health System program allows a specially trained team of critical care physicians and nurses to monitor critically ill patients from an off-site command center called the electronic intensive care unit.

“Let’s say, I’m a bedside nurse, and I have a patient that’s not doing well, and I need a physician, right then. I have a button I can push in the room, which activates the camera that’s in the room, and it calls up here to what we call the core,” said Jill Scott, director of operations at the eICU at Northeast Baptist Hospital.

A physician in the eICU can then use that camera to zoom in and assess the patient without stepping into their room.

“(The doctor) can be looking straight at the ventilator settings. He can be looking at the monitor,” Scott said.

The physician can also look at the patient’s vital signs and medications they are taking.

“A lot of times, one person in-house moderating all five hospitals can put out fires and take care of things and only calls a physician in when necessary,” said Dr. Steven Hilburn, pulmonologist and intensivist.

The eICU program has been in place since 2008, and staff members say it’s been a crucial program during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“When you’ve got a nurse that maybe instead of being one to two, which is the typical patient ratio, maybe they now are one, two, three because we just have a lot of patients right now,” Scott said.

Registered nurse Robert Castro Natal has been working in the ICU for 10 years.

“It’s also a lot easier than having to translate what’s going over the phone,” Castro Natal said.

“It’s definitely saving lives,” Scott said about the program.

About the Authors

Tiffany Huertas is a reporter for KSAT 12 known for her in-depth storytelling and her involvement with the community.

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