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Aurora launches new approach to intensive care that's first of its kind in Wisconsin

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Aurora eICU® Care blends clinical expertise and advanced technology

Aurora Health Care today unveiled a new life-saving approach to intensive care that is the first of its kind in Wisconsin.

Aurora eICU® Care combines advanced technology with the expertise of intensive care specialists to offer an unprecedented level of patient care. This sophisticated approach to care is currently providing advanced monitoring of critically ill patients at two Milwaukee hospitals, St. Luke’s Medical Center and Aurora Sinai Medical Center, and will be in place by early February at Aurora Medical Center in Kenosha. When fully implemented, Aurora eICU Care will be used in all of Aurora’s hospitals throughout eastern Wisconsin.

“This may be the single most important patient care initiative we’ve ever undertaken. It saves lives, improves care and reduces costs,” said Nick Turkal, M.D., Aurora’s senior clinical vice president. “It’s the difference between reactive care and proactive care.”

Dr. Turkal said Aurora eICU Care will be a vital tool for Aurora’s community hospitals as well as large urban medical centers. “It can help physicians manage critically ill patients locally, rather than transferring them to a tertiary medical center,” he said. “This brings the expertise of intensive care specialists to smaller hospitals.”

Aurora eICU Care employs a sophisticated system of computers and two-way communication links that allows intensive care specialists at a remote command center to make “virtual” rounds of patients. From a location on Milwaukee’s south side, the team monitors intensive care patients, checking vital signs, X-ray and lab data, and communicating with physicians, hospital staff, patients and family members.

Advanced software monitors trends and can identify even small changes showing that a patient’s condition is deteriorating. The software then alerts the Aurora eICU Care staff, who can immediately intercede. Avoiding such potentially catastrophic events is proven to save lives, reduce complications and shorten the time a patient is in the ICU, drastically cutting the cost of a hospital stay.

The benefits have been documented in an independent study by Cap Gemini, Ernst and Young for Sentara Norfolk General Hospital in Virginia, the first hospital to fully deploy the eICU approach to care. The study showed that intensive care mortality rates were cut by 25% and the average length of stay decreased by 17%. The Cap Gemini report indicates Sentara Healthcare significantly reduced costs while greatly upgrading the quality of care. The program has generated about $3 million in savings above program costs.

Jeff Smith, M.D., regional director of medical operations, has seen firsthand the benefits of Aurora eICU since it was implemented at Aurora. “It’s been a very positive experience,” he said. “The eICU staff can instantly notify physicians if a problem arises with one of their patients, and we can work together to resolve it. If the attending physician is busy with another patient, the eICU team can intervene and take immediate action.”

Aurora eICU Care enhances, rather than replaces, traditional intensive care, Smith said.

David Rein, M.D., an intensive care specialist who serves as medical director of Aurora eICU Care, said one of the keys to that extra protection is immediacy. “In health care, it’s vital to collect data immediately to make informed decisions, and it’s especially important in the ICU,” he said. “In the Aurora eICU Care Center, nearly all of the patient’s information is just a few keystrokes away. The Aurora eICU intensive care specialists can call up everything they need to know: a full health history, medications, allergies, vital signs, the history of the patient’s current stay, and more. Aurora eICU Care marks a major advance in the care of critically ill patients and enhances the care provided by the ICU staff at the bedside.”

Dr. Rein noted that in addition to all of the patient data that is available, the specialists at the Aurora eICU Care Center can use video and audio links to observe a patient and communicate with caregivers at the bedside.

Staff members have quickly embraced this new approach to intensive care, said Catherine Scoon, R.N., Aurora eICU Care manager. “I cannot accommodate all of the nurses who have asked to be part of the team,” she said.

Aurora Health Care is among the first health care systems in the country to adopt this approach to care. Others include Sutter General Hospital, Sacramento, Calif.; Sentara Health Care, in Virginia and North Carolina; New York Presbyterian Hospital, New York; and Advocate Health Care, Chicago.

More information about Aurora eICU Care is available at

Aurora Health Care is a not-for-profit Wisconsin health care provider and a nationally recognized leader in efforts to improve the quality of care. Aurora offers services at sites in more than 80 communities throughout eastern Wisconsin.

Contact:  Sue Pierman (414-647-6432)

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