The Sindh government and Aga Khan University have launched tele-intensive care (tele-ICU) consultation services to remotely support healthcare staff working in public sector hospitals in the province.
This is part of a partnership between the government and AKU to provide no-cost training and technical assistance to build ICU capacity on COVID-19.
Through this service, healthcare providers will get live support from AKU’s critical care experts by dialing a centralised contact number, with support available seven days a week.
As the fight against COVID-19 continues across the world, estimates indicate that at least 5 per cent of patients will become severely ill and require critical care services. Not all critical care cases will be admitted to an intensive care unit, ICU. But ICU admissions across the world are dependent on the severity of the patient’s sickness and the ICU capacity of the healthcare system. With COVID-19, the challenge is two-fold as there are shortages of infrastructure, such as beds and supplies, as well as a lack of trained healthcare staff.
“COVID-19 patients may experience rapid deterioration and require intensive care, particularly those with an additional condition such as hypertension and diabetes,” said Dr Asad Latif, associate professor, chair at the department of anesthesiology and lead of the project. “Given how intensive care is a specialty requiring years of training and practice, tele-ICU consultations are an innovative method to share knowledge and expertise in this time of national crisis.”
The tele-ICU model has previously been proven to effectively manage medical costs and decrease errors. Studies in the United States have shown tele-monitoring to reduce the length of stay and death rate in the ICU by up to 30 per cent. It has also been found to enhance patient safety, ensure that evidence-based protocols are followed and help clinicians manage surge capacities inside facilities.
The University’s COVID-19 tele-consultation services follow six-day courses for doctors, nurses and paramedical staff in acute critical patient management. Around 3000 healthcare staff were trained and offered online courses to develop an understanding of the specialised needs of ICU patients such as ventilation strategies, sedation and therapeutic options.
The initiative is supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and is being conducted in collaboration with the Sindh government’s department of health.