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USDA Awards $1.5 Million to Expand Access to High-Quality Critical Care in Rural Communities

eICU(R) Programs Close Critical Care Coverage Gap

WASHINGTON, Nov. 11, 2008 /PRNewswire/ -- The healthcare crisis that has been at the forefront of the recent political campaigns is often most prevalent in the many rural and remote areas of the country. The government recently took steps to alleviate the problem of critical care access for rural Nebraska and Iowa residents -- a problem that is being exacerbated by growing physician and nurse shortages. In total, the USDA has awarded more than $1.5 million in Rural Utility Service (RUS) grants to hospitals around the country to fund expansion of eICU critical care services to rural communities. This has helped to reduce the cost burden for rural communities to bring critical care expertise and a greater sense of security to critically ill patients and their families.

Last month, Alegent Health in Omaha, Nebraska received a grant to expand critical care services to its rural regional hospitals. Congressman Lee Terry, joined the USDA, in presenting the award to Alegent Health eICU personnel and rural hospital administrators on Friday, October 24, 2008. "Health care providers and patients in rural areas face obstacles that those in urban areas do not," said Terry. "The funds will go a long way in providing needed healthcare to many rural Nebraskans. This grant represents the dedication that USDA Rural Development and Alegent Health have to healthcare; and doctors and patients are better off because of it." Congressman Terry serves on the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Telecommunications.

The telemedicine grants are only one component of a significant rural development initiative that will bring expert healthcare services to six critical access hospitals in rural Nebraska and Iowa. Other hospitals in Maine, South Dakota, Nebraska, Minnesota, and Iowa have also received grants for implementation of eICU Programs through Maine Health and Avera Health.

USDA Rural Development recently recognized Maine's efforts to expand critical care access in rural communities by awarding Maine Health and Pen Bay Health with its Partnership in Excellence award on September 4, 2008.

Rural hospitals are often only equipped to stabilize trauma and critically ill patients before transferring them to the nearest full-service metropolitan hospital for specialty care. eICU Programs are closing this coverage gap. Physicians and critical care nurses, staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week at an eICU hub, can now assist bedside caregivers in the diagnosis, treatment and management of trauma and critically ill patients.

"It's like OnStar for nurses," said eFocus Operations Director Kim Sieck, RN, MSN, CCRN. "They can push the button and we can be readily available with the resources and support they may need."

The eICU Program, patented by VISICU, is in use in more than 200 hospitals around the country.

How the VISICU eICU Program works:

-- The hospital patient monitoring equipment transmits patient vital signs to critical care specialists in a central monitoring eICU hub.

-- Internal algorithms alert specialists when patient conditions worsen to allow for early intervention and treatment.

-- Specialists monitor procedures, direct treatment and immediately alert Emergency Department and ICU personnel when intervention may be required.

-- Video-conferencing/Video-assessment equipment enables live interaction between the eICU team and those at the bedside.

"It gives us the opportunity to keep more critically ill patients close to home and family, while still being a part of a critical care environment with 24/7 monitoring by specialists," said Darcy Behrendt, Chief Nurse Executive at Community Memorial Hospital which is being serviced by the Alegent Health eICU Center.

"These grants are helping to bring the resources found in large metropolitan hospitals to rural communities," said Frank Sample, President and CEO of VISICU. "This is a large step in support of our vision to enable 24x7 access to critical care specialists for every patient, regardless of where they happen to live."

eICU(R) is a registered trademark of VISICU, a Philips Company. All rights reserved.

For additional details and/or patient perspectives, contact:

Alegent Health; Jennifer Kucirek;;


Maine Health: Mark Harris;; 207-775-7001

Avera Health; Daryl Thuringer;; 605.322.4733

VISICU; Deb Dominianni;; 410-843-4565

USDA Rural Development; ;


Copyright©2008 PR Newswire.
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