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USDA Awards $1.5 Million to Expand Access to High-Quality Critical Care in Rural Communities

Wednesday, November 12, 2008 General News J E 4
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WASHINGTON, Nov. 11, 2008 The healthcare crisis that hasbeen at the forefront of the recent political campaigns is often mostprevalent in the many rural and remote areas of the country. The governmentrecently took steps to alleviate the problem of critical care access for ruralNebraska and Iowa residents -- a problem that is being exacerbated by growingphysician and nurse shortages. In total, the USDA has awarded more than $1.5million in Rural Utility Service (RUS) grants to hospitals around the countryto fund expansion of eICU critical care services to rural communities. Thishas helped to reduce the cost burden for rural communities to bring criticalcare expertise and a greater sense of security to critically ill patients andtheir families.

Last month, Alegent Health in Omaha, Nebraska received a grant to expandcritical care services to its rural regional hospitals. Congressman LeeTerry, joined the USDA, in presenting the award to Alegent Health eICUpersonnel and rural hospital administrators on Friday, October 24, 2008."Health care providers and patients in rural areas face obstacles that thosein urban areas do not," said Terry. "The funds will go a long way in providingneeded healthcare to many rural Nebraskans. This grant represents thededication that USDA Rural Development and Alegent Health have to healthcare;and doctors and patients are better off because of it." Congressman Terryserves on the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Telecommunications.

The telemedicine grants are only one component of a significant ruraldevelopment initiative that will bring expert healthcare services to sixcritical access hospitals in rural Nebraska and Iowa. Other hospitals inMaine, South Dakota, Nebraska, Minnesota, and Iowa have also received grantsfor implementation of eICU Programs through Maine Health and Avera Health.

USDA Rural Development recently recognized Maine's efforts to expandcritical care access in rural communities by awarding Maine Health and Pen BayHealth with its Partnership in Excellence award on September 4, 2008.

Rural hospitals are often only equipped to stabilize trauma and criticallyill patients before transferring them to the nearest full-service metropolitanhospital for specialty care. eICU Programs are closing this coverage gap.Physicians and critical care nurses, staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a weekat an eICU hub, can now assist bedside caregivers in the diagnosis, treatmentand management of trauma and critically ill patients.

"It's like OnStar for nurses," said eFocus Operations Director Kim Sieck,RN, MSN, CCRN. "They can push the button and we can be readily available withthe resources and support they may need."

The eICU Program, patented by VISICU, is in use in more than 200 hospitalsaround the country.

How the VISICU eICU Program works:

-- The hospital patient monitoring equipment transmits patient vital signsto critical care specialists in a central monitoring eICU hub.

-- Internal algorithms alert specialists when patient conditions worsen toallow for early intervention and treatment.

-- Specialists monitor procedures, direct treatment and immediately alertEmergency Department and ICU personnel when intervention may be required.

-- Video-conferencing/Video-assessment equipment enables live interactionbetween the eICU team and those at the bedside.

"It gives us the opportunity to keep more critically ill patients close tohome and family, while still being a part of a critical care environment with24/7 monitoring by specialists," said Darcy Behrendt, Chief Nurse Executive atCommunity Memorial Hospital which is being serviced by the Alegent Health eICUCenter.

"These grants are helping to bring the resources found in largemetropolitan hospitals to rural communities," said Frank Sample, President andCEO of VISICU. "This is a large step in support of our vision to enable 24x7access to critical care specialists for every patient, regardless of wherethey happen to live."

eICU(R) is a registered trademark of VISICU, a Philips Company. All rightsreserved.For additional details and/or patient perspectives, contact: Alegent Health; Jennifer Kucirek; jennifer.kucirek@alegent.org; 402-343-4676 Maine Health: Mark Harris; harrim6@mmc.org; 207-775-7001 Avera Health; Daryl Thuringer; daryl.thuringer@avera.org; 605.322.4733 VISICU; Deb Dominianni; ddominianni@visicu.com; 410-843-4565 USDA Rural Development; http://www.usda.gov/rus/telecom/dlt/dlt.htm ; 800-670-6553.

SOURCE VISICU
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