Dana Byrd, Air St. Luke’s communications supervisor, explains the patient transport process.
Members of the St. Luke’s Health System Board recently had an opportunity to see firsthand how St. Luke’s teleICU service, Transfer Center and Air St. Luke’s collaborate with multiple departments and care teams to connect patients and providers who are separated by hundreds of miles.
The tour began in Boise’s teleICU center where St. Luke’s pulmonologist Dr. Eric Rich first interacted with the McCall patient and Dr. John Kremer. The patient was diagnosed with severe sepsis and respiratory distress, and Dr. Rich, serving as a teleICU doctor in Boise’s clinical operations room (COR), confirmed that the patient needed to be transported to St. Luke’s Boise in order to receive aggressive, life-saving treatment.
Sepsis.org defines sepsis as “the body’s overwhelming and life-threatening response to infection.” It can cause tissue damage, organ failure, and death, and kills an estimated 258,000 Americans each year.
Timing is critical when it comes to the treatment of severe sepsis. Early treatment with antibiotics and large amounts of intravenous fluids can improve a patient’s chances for survival. Transporting a patient from McCall to Boise, as demonstrated in the recent board tour, helps ensure the patient will get fast and aggressive treatment.
Patient transfers are delicately orchestrated to ensure everyone involved is safe and the patient has continuous medical management while remaining as stable as possible. The transfer center is responsible for initiating contact with Air St. Luke’s and working simultaneously to secure an in-patient bed for the patient in the receiving facility. Weather conditions are monitored throughout the flight; a communications team on the ground tracks the flight through a gps system and alerts the flight crew if patterns change. The teleICU physician continues to work with the remote bedside team while transfer and transport is being arranged in order to stabilize the patient and initiate early treatment.
“The amount of teamwork and communication skills shows this team is really leading the way, observed board member Dan Krahn. “The conversation can get busy, but it’s about a somebody - a person - and they get that.”
The board watched the Air St. Luke’s team transport the “patient” into the Boise hospital for continued care. Once a transported patient arrives in Boise, the team continues to stay in contact with the physician. Providers and nurses in the teleICU continue to monitor ongoing care from the clinical operations room and work collaboratively with the bedside care team to assist with management of the patient.
TeleICU serves patients in rural areas by providing immediate access to specialists who wouldn’t be available on-demand in smaller communities. This technology allows patients with critical care needs to have the same advantages as those who are in larger cities where specialists are often immediately available.
Board member Larry Cope, who lives in the Magic Valley, was impressed to learn how the technology could improve the coordination of care.
“It used to be an all-day process to get someone medical assistance,” Cope said. “We are just getting closer to the people in our regions with the capability we have now.”
Chereen Langrill is a former communications coordinator for St. Luke’s Health System