James Johnson, MD using TeleICU technologyPhysicians in the Division of Pulmonary, Allergy and Critical Care launched a new telehealth program on July 2, 2018. The initiative, led by Steve Stigler, MD, and James E. Johnson, MD, will enable UAB physicians to monitor and treat patients in the Intensive Care Unit at Vaughan Regional Medical Center in Selma without leaving the UAB campus.

As a community hospital Vaughan Regional Medical Center currently maintains a 10-bed ICU; but they don’t have a pulmonary intensivist on staff to manage the care for patients who need a mechanical ventilator to support their breathing. Telemedicine connects the pulmonary experts at UAB with the health care team in Selma, enabling them to vicariously “round and respond” as if they were on-site physicians.

The technology is similar to the popular consumer videoconferencing FaceTime, but with added digital diagnostic tools such as an electronic stethoscope. With a secure computer and video hookup, the Vaughan team sets a mobile cart next to the patient for examination. Through the electronic link, the UAB physician can listen to the patient’s heart and lungs, review their medical record, and see the ventilator settings. They can then enter their orders directly into the system.  

About a dozen UAB pulmonologists will operate the “Tele-ICU” service 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. In addition to providing consultation and care, they will also engage in training Vaughan’s family medicine residents in critical care medicine.

According to Dr. Johnson, the team is excited to stretch their boundaries and explore this new means of patient care. “It’s good that we’re getting outside the four walls of UAB and helping a smaller hospital,” he says. “The telemedicine approach offers a win for all involved. Vaughan RMC has access to pulmonary experts, UAB is able to serve more patients, and the patients themselves are able to stay closer to home and family support.”