Background: Remote coverage of ICUs is increasing, but staff acceptance of this new technology is incompletely characterized. We conducted a systematic review to summarize existing research on acceptance of tele-ICU coverage among ICU staff.
Methods: We searched for published articles pertaining to critical care telemedicine systems (aka, tele-ICU) between January 1950 and March 2010 using PubMed, Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature, Global Health, Web of Science, and the Cochrane Library and abstracts and presentations delivered at national conferences. Studies were included if they provided original qualitative or quantitative data on staff perceptions of tele-ICU coverage. Studies were imported into content analysis software and coded by tele-ICU configuration, methodology, participants, and findings (eg, positive and negative staff evaluations).
Results: Review of 3,086 citations yielded 23 eligible studies. Findings were grouped into four categories of staff evaluation: overall acceptance level of tele-ICU coverage (measured in 70% of studies), impact on patient care (measured in 96%), impact on staff (measured in 100%), and organizational impact (measured in 48%). Overall acceptance was high, despite initial ambivalence. Favorable impact on patient care was perceived by > 82% of participants. Staff impact referenced enhanced collaboration, autonomy, and training, although scrutiny, malfunctions, and contradictory advice were cited as potential barriers. Staff perceived the organizational impact to vary. An important limitation of available studies was a lack of rigorous methodology and validated survey instruments in many studies.
Conclusions: Initial reports suggest high levels of staff acceptance of tele-ICU coverage, but more rigorous methodologic study is required.