If you're laid up in an intensive-care unit, you may welcome an extra set of eyes watching over you. That's what's coming for patients at Sutter Health, a Sacramento (Calif.) hospital chain. It's spending $20 million on a Web system dubbed eICU that combines patient monitoring and digital record-keeping. In-room cameras and monitoring devices feed vital stats such as pulse and blood pressure to doctors. Sutter plans to roll out the system to 420 beds in 20 hospitals in the next two years. In the two hospitals where the system is already in place, blood-clot rates have dropped from 25% to near zero and stress-ulcer rates have declined from 14% to almost zero. Fewer complications mean freed-up beds. The chain hopes to cut the average ICU stay by 15%. "That is, in effect, creating more ICU beds for us," says Dr. Gordon Hunt, Sutter's chief medical officer. And better intensive care for his patients. By Jim Kerstetter
The Project: To reduce medical complications in hospital intensive-care units with a constant feed of vital statistics to doctors.The Payoff: Complications such as blood clots have been reduced from a 25% frequency rate to near zero.