VA Midwest Health Care Network Opens 'Hub' for Regional Tele-ICU - Minneapolis VA Health Care System
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Minneapolis VA Health Care System

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VA Midwest Health Care Network Opens 'Hub' for Regional Tele-ICU

a woman and man look at multiple computer monitors in the Tele-ICU

With several large monitors showing data and the patient simultaneously, clinicians have all of the clinical data immediately at hand during a time critical consultation.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Connecting VA Intensive Care Units in Minneapolis, Fargo and Omaha to better serve Veterans 

A “second set of eyes” can now monitor patients at Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) hospitals across the VA Midwest Health Care Network, thanks to a Tele-Intensive Care Unit (Tele-ICU) that opened on August 2 at the Minneapolis VA Medical Center.

The integrated, Minneapolis-based team of critical care nurses and intensivists (doctors who specialize in critical care medicine) is now available 24/7 to aid patients and clinicians in ICUs at VA hospitals in Minneapolis, Minn, Fargo, ND, and Omaha, Neb.   VA hospitals in Iowa City and Des Moines, IA, Fort Meade and Sioux Falls, SD, will be added to the new Intensive Care monitoring system within the next few months.  When the system is complete, 75 ICU beds will be monitored by a highly trained team of critical care specialists based out of the Minneapolis VA hospital.  The opening of this Regional Tele-ICU Center is the first of its kind in VA and the first Minnesota centered tele-ICU program within the state.  .

“Our job is to collaborate with the bedside team,” said Dr. Robert Bonello, medical director of the program.  “This high-tech service greatly improves Veterans access to highly skilled critical care specialist by placing them in the patient’s ICU room via audio and visual telecommunications software.  We aren’t replacing bedside clinicians or bedside care.  Instead, we are providing  an added layer of support in managing a high risk patient population.”

Real Time Access to ICU Specialists

The Tele-ICU, located in a quiet and restricted area on the fourth floor of the Minneapolis VA hospital, is equipped with a bank of monitoring screens that show vital signs (heart rate and blood pressure) and lab values.  There is a live two-way audio-video feed which instantly connects the Veteran, the bedside provider and the team of critical care nurses and intensivist in real time.  The video resolution is so fine, Intensivists can see pupils constrict in response to light.

With several large monitors showing data and the patient simultaneously, clinicians have clinical data at their finger tips, which is crucial during a critical consultation.

The bottom line –“VA providers can now provide the best care possible, using the latest technologies combined with the best skills of experienced doctors and nurses,” said Dr. Bonello.

Tele ICUs Improves Care, Lowers Mortality 

A study published by University of Massachusetts researchers in the May 16 issue of Journal of American Medical Association showed that tele-ICU improved care delivery and resulted in lower hospital and ICU mortality and shorter hospital and ICU lengths of stay.


The VA Midwest Health Care Network, also known as Veterans Integrated Service Network (VISN) 23, is one of 21 Veteran Integrated Service Networks within the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Veterans Health Administration.

The Network serves more than 400,000 enrolled Veterans residing in the states of Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and portions of Illinois, Kansas, Missouri, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

Health care services are delivered through an integrated system of 8 hospitals, 56 community based outpatient or outreach clinics, 8 community living centers and 4 domiciliary residential rehabilitation treatment programs. 


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