OBJECTIVES: Studies evaluating telemedicine critical care (TCC) have shown mixed results. We prospectively evaluated the impact of TCC implementation on risk-adjusted mortality among patients stratified by pre-TCC performance.
DESIGN: Prospective, observational, before and after study.
SETTING: Three adult ICUs at an academic medical center.
PATIENTS: A total of 2,429 patients in the pre-TCC (January to June 2016) and 12,479 patients in the post-TCC (January 2017 to June 2019) periods.
INTERVENTIONS: TCC implementation which included an acuity-driven workflow targeting an identified "lower-performing" patient group, defined by ICU admission in an Acute Physiology and Chronic Health Evaluation diagnoses category with a pre-TCC standardized mortality ratio (SMR) of greater than 1.5.
MEASUREMENTS AND MAIN RESULTS: The primary outcome was risk-adjusted hospital mortality. Risk-adjusted hospital length of stay (HLOS) was also studied. The SMR for the overall ICU population was 0.83 pre-TCC and 0.75 post-TCC, with risk-adjusted mortalities of 10.7% and 9.5% ( p = 0.09). In the identified lower-performing patient group, which accounted for 12.6% ( n = 307) of pre-TCC and 13.3% ( n = 1671) of post-TCC ICU patients, SMR decreased from 1.61 (95% CI, 1.21-2.01) pre-TCC to 1.03 (95% CI, 0.91-1.15) post-TCC, and risk-adjusted mortality decreased from 26.4% to 16.9% ( p < 0.001). In the remaining ("higher-performing") patient group, there was no change in pre- versus post-TCC SMR (0.70 [0.59-0.81] vs 0.69 [0.64-0.73]) or risk-adjusted mortality (8.5% vs 8.4%, p = 0.86). There were no pre- to post-TCC differences in standardized HLOS ratio or risk-adjusted HLOS in the overall cohort or either performance group.
CONCLUSIONS: In well-staffed and overall higher-performing ICUs in an academic medical center, Acute Physiology and Chronic Health Evaluation granularity allowed identification of a historically lower-performing patient group that experienced a striking TCC-associated reduction in SMR and risk-adjusted mortality. This study provides additional evidence for the relationship between pre-TCC performance and post-TCC improvement.