Telemedicine will
let Guam benefit
from Tripler ICU

Star-Bulletin staff

Tripler Army Medical Center's capabilities to care for critically ill patients thousands of miles away will be expanded in October in a partnership with U.S. Naval Hospital Guam.

Critical-care specialists at both locations will be able to see patients' symptoms simultaneously and discuss the best treatment via audio and visual equipment.

Testing of an Electronic Intensive Care Unit, E-ICU, will begin in September at Tripler under a Department of Defense arrangement between Army and Navy medical facilities to provide critical care.

It will be the first military-to-military use of the E-ICU technology, which has improved use of resources and health care outcomes in other facilities, said Col. (Dr.) Benjamin Berg, chief of Tripler's Pulmonology Service and telemedicine project director.

"We fully expect to see those results happen with us," he said. He said telemedicine is a big improvement from telephone consultations, the only other option, which limit available information.

Professionals at the U.S. Naval Hospital Guam are enthusiastic about the telemedicine project, said Navy Lt. (Dr.) Troy Thompson, head of the internal medicine department there.

"We look forward to having a variety of specialists available for consultations since, up until now, only the general internists have been available for inpatient consults."

Col. (Dr.) Dale Vincent, chief of Tripler's Department of Medicine, said military treatment facilities in Okinawa, Korea and Japan and other sites also may eventually have equipment to connect with specialists thousands of miles away.

He said telemedicine will reduce the stress on patients, families and medical personnel who fly patients to Tripler for specialized care.

"It's quite traumatic for patients to embark on a trip when they're critically ill," he said. "It also puts a great amount of stress on the medical teams needed to care for these patients on their way to Tripler."

Tripler's critical-care specialists may be able to treat up to six long-distance patients at the same time with the E-ICU system. The space at Tripler will look like a typical intensive care unit -- but without the patient.

Seven Tripler critical-care specialists will divide monitoring duties. "We can do consultations as often as we want, and the equipment is always recording," Vincent said. "All we have to do is turn (the visual screen) on."

Cardiology, neurosurgery or other areas may be added to the project in the future, the doctors said.

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