There is a medical revolution happening on the quiet second floor of the John Weld Peck Federal Building in Cincinnati, Ohio. There, behind an unassuming beige door, VA telehealth physicians and nurses at high-tech workstations deliver care to ICU Veterans at 19 VA medical facilities across the country.
"We are actually making the future of telehealth right here," said Dr. Ralph Panos, Tele-ICU medical director for VISN 10, during the September ribbon-cutting event that marked the opening of the new facility in downtown Cincinnati.
The VISN 10 Tele-ICU program began in 2011 at the Cincinnati VA Medical Center with a modest staff of six nurses, three physicians and one part-time biotech engineer. The new facility supports a team of 47 registered nurses, five advanced practice nurses, 14 physicians and six support staff members.
Dr. Neil Evans, Chief Officer for VA's Office of Connected Care, said Tele-ICU can support 30 to 40 Veterans for each telehealth nurse and 120 Veterans for each physician, but the program's real impact extends beyond this capacity. "The fact that a clinical staff member or a family member can press a button on a wall in an ICU hundreds of miles from here, and a calm voice can come on, someone who has all of the tools to help out — the value of that cannot be overstated."