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American Family Children's Hospital

Virtual ICU and Organ Donation: Smoothing out the Donation Process


UW Health Services

UW Health Telehealth

Critically-ill patients in an intensive care unit rely on highly-skilled, experienced intensive care physicians and nurses to monitor their medical condition around the clock. In the ICU, speed of response can make the difference between life and death.


In July 2008, UW Health launched a virtual intensive care unit that provides an extra level of support to ICU staff and helps ensure that ICU patients have immediate access to the safest, highest quality of care possible.


Known as e-Care of Wisconsin, the virtual ICU consists of a staff of board-certified intensivists and critical care nurses connected to patient care areas by a sophisticated monitoring and communication system. When a patient's attending physician is not at the bedside, e-Care staff are able to monitor care in accordance with guidelines based on physician preferences and individual patient needs. As more hospitals in the state link in to e-Care of Wisconsin, more ICU programs will benefit from the extra support the program provides.


But given its sophisticated cameras, microphones and links to ICU staff, how does the virtual ICU assist in the organ donation process?


"By utilizing this new technology, critical care intensivists will be able to collaborate with coordinators from the organ procurement organization to assist and facilitate the optimal management of a potential organ donor," says Dr. Wood, Program Director.


As most potential organ donors have suffered devastating injury and tend to be significantly unstable, the ongoing access to critical care physicians and nurses will allow for improved management and could increase the success rate of organ donation and procurement.


"As more hospitals begin to implement virtual ICU programs like e-Care of Wisconsin, I think we'll see a rise in the number of organs transplanted from each donor," adds Dr. Wood. "Ultimately, that means more lives are saved, which is what e-Care is all about."