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The Leavenworth Times - Leavenworth, KS
  • Medical staff in Minneapolis can monitor Leavenworth VA patients

  • Joey Simonis said medical staff at the Intensive Care Unit of the Eisenhower VA Medical Center now have an "second set of eyes" to monitor patients.
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  • Joey Simonis said medical staff at the Intensive Care Unit of the Eisenhower VA Medical Center now have an "second set of eyes" to monitor patients.
    That's how Simonis, an informatics nurse, describes a new Tele-ICU program at the VA hospital in Leavenworth.
    The program links doctors and nurses from the VA hospital in Minneapolis to ICU staff and patients in Leavenworth.
    The staff at the Minneapolis hospital can monitor things such as vital signs of the ICU patients in Leavenworth.
    "It's real-time monitoring," Dr. Alex Hallock said.
    He is chief of acute medicine for VA Eastern Kansas Health Care System, which includes the Leavenworth hospital.
    Doctors and nurses from Minneapolis also are on hand to provide consultation to staff at the local hospital.
    "We can use them as little as we need to and as much as we need to," Hallock said.
    Because the Department of Veterans Affairs is a federal agency, state licensing requirements do not impede the care staff in Minnesota provide to patients in Kansas, said Karen Rafter, a nurse in Minneapolis who is part of the Tele-ICU program.
    Two-way audio and video equipment allows medical staff in Minneapolis to speak with staff and patients in the ICU rooms.
    Hallock said it's like having another doctor or nurse sitting next to you.
    "They just can't touch you," he said.
    Simonis said all six of the ICU rooms at the Eisenhower VA Medical Center are equipped for the Tele-ICU program. The program has been in place at the hospital for about a month.
    One doctor and two nurses always are on staff in Minneapolis for the Tele-ICU program.
    The Minneapolis hospital has similar links to other medical centers in the VA system including the hospital in Topeka.
    Hallock said the cameras used for the two-way communication are turned away from patients when they're not activated. He said this helps to assure patients they are not being watched.
    He said hospital staff explain the program to ICU patients and their families.
    Simonis said the Tele-ICU program doesn't replace bedside physicians and nurses at the Leavenworth hospital, but it provides additional support.
    "It may help catch something that may have gone unnoticed," he said.
    Hallock said ICU staffing levels have not changed with the implementation of the program.
    He said the program may be expanded to the Leavenworth hospital's progressive care unit.
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