New Hampshire Anesthesiologists Lead Tele-Intensive Care Unit Innovation for COVID-19 Patients in Rural Areas during Public Health Crisis

Anesthesiologist Athos Rassias, MD, works with a beside team at Monadnock Regional Hospital in Peterborough, NH. Dartmouth-Hitchcock Connected Care Center for TeleHealth TeleICU hub at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, NH.

Physician anesthesiologists have been on the frontlines caring for COVID-19 patients throughout the country, but in New Hampshire physicians have innovated with a Tele-Intensive Care Unit (TeleICU) hub to collaborate with physicians in rural hospitals to ensure infected patients from across the state get critical care expertise at no expense while receiving care close to home.

“Anesthesiology has long been a specialty of innovation,” said Stephen Surgenor, MD, president of the New Hampshire Society of Anesthesiologists (NHSA). “During this health care emergency, telemedicine has been a helpful way for critical care anesthesiologists to care for COVID-19 patients who wouldn’t otherwise have the ability to be seen by these specialists”

The TeleICU is a remote video technology platform that allows physicians in rural hospitals to confer with critical care specialists until the patient can be transferred to the larger hospital. These conferences take place at the patient’s bedside with the conferring physician and the physician anesthesiologist at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, NH, similar to a Zoom or Skype video call.

The guidance physicians provide to more than 20 rural hospitals includes advice on sedation and pain management, blood transfusions, ventilator and equipment management, as well as management of sepsis, shock, organ dysfunction and acute respiratory distress syndrome. With the technology and cooperation of the anesthesiologists educated and trained in critical care and crisis management, New Hampshire’s COVID-19 patients in rural areas have access to the same expertise as those in urban areas.

The effort is led by Surgenor, who is medical director for the TeleICU program at the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Connected Care Center for Telehealth, which covers all the ICU beds at Littleton Regional Hospital in Littleton, NH; Cheshire Medical Center Dartmouth-Hitchcock in Keene, NH; Southwestern Vermont Medical Center in Bennington, VT, and Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center. Surgenor led the expansion of the TeleICU service to a number of smaller, rural New Hampshire hospitals through a cart-based program, including Alice Peck Day Memorial Hospital in Lebanon, Androscoggin Valley Hospital in Berlin, New London Hospital in New London, Upper Connecticut Valley Hospital in Colebrook, Weeks Medical Center in Lancaster, Monadnock Community Hospital in Peterborough, and Huggins Hospital in Wolfeboro, and others.

Source: American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA)

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