Rx for virtual intensive care units: An open source IT infrastructure

Virtual intensive care units (vICUs), which use technology to deliver care to patients in off-site hospitals and clinics, are nothing new. However, these vICUs are becoming more commonplace and are helping to meet the demand for better quality care and an improved patient experience. The goal of a vICU is to ensure patients, especially those in rural areas, have access to quality, safe and cost-effective intensive care. These vICUs require collaboration across units, best practices, standardization of care—and a flexible, reliable and secure IT infrastructure to support the various applications such as remote patient monitoring, electronic health records, and more. Red Hat’s prescription for the IT infrastructure? An open source platform.

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Red Hat open source platforms provide organizations with flexible, cost-effective solutions ready for the enterprise. Open source projects such as Linux and OpenStack are created by communities of developers rather than a single entity, thereby reducing the concern for vendor lock-in. They are built with open standards, and can provide a foundation for scalability, agility and innovation.

An open source platform from Red Hat was the choice for one global health services company as it transitioned its payment systems and needed to make quick changes to data. The transition called for a flexible back-office system that could scale and support automated contract management as well as facilitate quicker and easier rules changes and more efficient, scalable development processes. Red Hat’s open source platform allows the organization’s business users to change or adapt business rules dynamically.

That flexibility and scale makes sense for virtual ICUs, which have to connect with patients in distant intensive care units in real-time. Virtual ICUs are likely to use a variety of telemedicine applications, including patient consultations via video conferencing, transmission of still images, patient portals, remote monitoring of vital signs, wireless applications and others.

A healthcare provider in the southeast monitors ICUs in 10 of its hospitals from a centrally located command center, as reported by NPR radio station WFAE and Kaiser Health News in this article. One of the ICUs monitored from the command center is a 10-bed ICU. There is a regular staff at the small, rural hospital, but the extra nurses and critical care staff at the command center monitor multiple computer screens to provide around-the-clock care for patients. Nurses can check on patients and converse with them through cameras and computer screens and even remotely monitor patients’ vitals, according to the story. Since implementing the vICU system, the healthcare provider is able to care for more patients, while reducing mortality rates and patient length of stay, the article states.

Virtual ICUs cannot afford capacity or performance limitations; after all, patients’ lives are on the line. That’s why we recommend a secure, open IT infrastructure. Red Hat Enterprise Linux lays a stable foundation that supports changing requirements and secures protected health information. It is a tested, proven and predictable platform that is supported by an ecosystem of partners, customers and experts. Red Hat JBoss Middleware facilitates and simplifies the exchange of health information through  integration and automation. Applications can be developed, deployed and managed onsite or in the cloud, and hospitals can use Red Hat’s integration and messaging technologies to connect the healthcare community. Red Hat Virtualization lets organizations improve efficiency, free up resources, and cut costs of their server and desktop environments without sacrificing performance, security, and existing investments.

Telemedicine, including vICUs, is gaining traction as healthcare organizations look for ways to provide safe, quality and cost-effective care to any patient who needs it, no matter where they live. Technology enables telemedicine, and a secure, open IT infrastructure offers an optimal foundation on which telemedicine is delivered.

We’d love to hear your experiences with telemedicine and vICUs. Is your organization considering or already using telemedicine? Let us know in the comments section below.

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