Background: Although remote intensive care unit (ICU) coverage is rapidly being adopted to enhance access to intensivists, its effect on patient outcomes is unclear. We conducted a meta-analysis to examine the impact of telemedicine ICU (tele-ICU) coverage on mortality and length of stay (LOS).
Methods: We conducted a systematic review of studies published from January 1, 1950, through September 30, 2010, using PubMed, CINAHL (Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature), Global Health, Web of Science, the Cochrane Library, and conference abstracts. We included studies that reported data on the primary outcomes of ICU and in-hospital mortality or on the secondary outcomes of ICU and hospital LOS.
Results: We identified 13 eligible studies involving 35 ICUs. All the studies used a before-and-after design. The studies included 41 374 patients (15 667 pre-tele-ICU and 25 707 post-tele-ICU patients). Tele-ICU coverage was associated with a reduction in ICU mortality (pooled odds ratio, 0.80; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.66-0.97; P = .02) but not in-hospital mortality for patients admitted to an ICU (pooled odds ratio, 0.82; 95% CI, 0.65-1.03; P = .08). Similarly, tele-ICU coverage was associated with a reduction in ICU LOS (mean difference, -1.26 days; 95% CI, -2.21 to -0.30; P = .01) but not hospital LOS (mean difference, -0.64; 95% CI, -1.52 to 0.25; P = .16).
Conclusion: Tele-ICU coverage is associated with lower ICU mortality and LOS but not with lower in-hospital mortality or hospital LOS.