Hospitals admit more than five million patients annually to ICUs for a wide variety of reasons: intensive monitoring, airway or circulation support, acute or life-threatening medical problem stabilization, and comprehensive injury or illness management. During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, ICUs were often overloaded with hospitals’ sickest patients, who required the highest level of care at the most chaotic time.
Due to the severity of their conditions, it’s estimated that between 10 to 29 percent of patients do not survive, which means hospitals must ensure patients receive the highest quality care their ICUs can provide.
The Critical Need for EM, HM, and ICU Integration
Because ICU patients are often admitted through the emergency department and discharged to the medical-surgical unit, coordinating care between the three hospital settings—EM, HM, and ICU—is vital.
When emergency medicine, hospital medicine, and intensive care, function as intrinsic components of one clinically aligned multispecialty group, it streamlines care. As a result, hospitals experience a wealth of benefits, including improved outcomes, higher patient satisfaction ratings, and a better community reputation.
Contrarily, departments operating in silos, each with separate processes, priorities, and policies, put patients at risk for medication errors, treatment delays, test duplication, and conflicting care plans.
Ensuring effective care demands interdepartmental coordination and excellent communication. The best way to achieve that goal is through intentional, strategic integration.
What Is EM, HM, ICU Integration?
EM, HM, and ICU integration means multiple clinical service lines operate cohesively across departments to deliver high-quality care and increase efficiency. Rather than focusing on their own department’s priorities, providers consider the entire hospital experience and potential outcomes.
What Does Interdepartmental Integration Look Like?
Successful EM, HM, and ICU integration involves direct communication between physicians when patients are admitted to and discharged from the ICU. Such communication, which includes up-to-date information regarding patient care, treatment and service, condition, and any recent or anticipated changes, is interactive, allowing for collegial discussion between those who give and receive patient information. Movement between departments becomes seamless as a result.
With integration, clinicians consider transfer collaboration with specific patient needs in mind. There are standardized patient discharge processes to ensure protocols are specific and based on best practices, and transparent communication with family members each step of the way to answers questions and offers reassurance.
Related Resource: Ensure Your ICU Provides High-Quality Care
Intensivists Essential to Streamlined Patient Care
The intensivist is a centrifugal force in making EM, HM, and ICU integration work.
Dedicated critical care specialists whose principal area of practice is the ICU allow for a higher quality of treatment for patients, their families, and hospital staff. Without them, hospitals would be compelled to transfer patients to higher-acuity facilities who could otherwise be treated on-site.
With their leadership in the ICU, patient care is no longer fractionalized but, rather, consolidated and coordinated across the care continuum.
Intensivists perform a variety of functions:
- Provide expert, procedurally-based care for all critically ill patients;
- Coordinate ICU patient care with a multidisciplinary team of nurses, specialists, and other medical professionals;
- Are key collaborators for care plans that encompass the care continuum, working with primary, specialty, and consultative physicians;
- Serve as a touchpoint on admission to the ICU from the ED and map out expectations for the care journey once the patient leaves the ICU, giving initial care and continuing communication with the hospitalist.
Related Resource: The Necessity of Building Teamwork in the ICU
Partnerships can Help
Partnering with an expert management partner may help you integrate your ICU with other departments. Clinical integration solutions, such as the ones SCP Health employs, work well to streamline care and enhance continuity through more efficient patient hand-offs.
As shown in this case study, SCP Health excels in clinical integration solutions with our partner hospitals seeing impactful results in reduced LOS, increased patient capacity, greater revenue, and most importantly, better patient care.
Contact us to learn how we can help you.