Questions

What kinds of illness require critical care?
What is the difference between critical care and emergency medicine?
How does my primary care doctor fit into the care team?
How can I obtain copies of living wills and other documents?
What is telemedicine?

What kinds of illness require critical care?

Any illness that threatens life requires critical care. Poisoning, surgical problems, and premature birth are a few causes of critical illness. Critical illness includes:

Illness that affects the heart and all of the vessels that carry blood to the body, such as:

  • Myocardial infarction (heart attack)
  • Shock
  • Arrhythmia
  • Congestive heart failure

Illness that affects the lungs and the muscles used for breathing, such as:

  • Respiratory failure
  • Pneumonia
  • Pulmonary embolus

Illness that affects the kidneys, such as:

  • Kidney failure

Illness that affects the mouth, esophagus, stomach, intestines, and other parts of the body that carry food, such as:

  • Bleeding
  • Malnutrition

Illness that affects the brain and the spinal cord and nerves that connect the brain to the arms, legs, and other organs, such as:

  • Stroke
  • Encephalopathy

Infection caused by a virus, bacteria, or fungus, such as:

  • Sepsis
  • Ventilator-associated pneumonia
  • Catheter-related infection
  • Drug-resistant infection

Multiple organ failure

A serious injury also requires critical care, whether the result of:

  • A car crash
  • A gunshot or stabbing wound
  • A fall
  • Burns

Back to top

What is the difference between critical care and emergency medicine?

Critical care is the long-term treatment of patients who have an illness that threatens their life. Emergency medicine is the short-term treatment of those patients; it is also the treatment of patients who have a minor injury (for example, sprained ankle, broken arm).

In the emergency department, doctors and nurses stabilize patients and then transport them to the intensive care unit (ICU) or another area of the hospital for further treatment.

Back to top

How does my primary care doctor fit into the care team?

Your family doctor is an important link between the care team and you.

The family doctor has a complete medical history of the patient, is often trusted by the family, and may be aware of the patient’s values, attitudes and healthcare preferences. The care team often works closely with the family doctor to determine pre-existing illness, allergies, use of medications, and other factors which may influence the health of the patient.

Back to top

How can I obtain copies of living wills and other documents?

Your local hospital and personal doctor are likely to have advance directives, living wills, and other documents available. A national organization, Choice in Dying, can also provide you with the forms. To contact them, call +1 800 989-WILL.

Back to top

What is telemedicine?

Telemedicine, or Tele-ICU, is the use of electronic communication to examine a patient from a place far away from the bedside. Telemedicine links doctors to patients, doctors to doctors, doctors to bedside caregivers and doctors to medical information.

Telemedicine will not replace your doctor at the bedside. It is a “second set of eyes” that will allow your doctor to give you complete care, even when he or she is helping another patient. Telemedicine improves patient safety and moves the care team to the bedside when the patient most needs them.

Telemedicine improves critical care because it allows the doctor to:

  • Check vital signs and start therapy in a shorter amount of time
  • Meet with local, national, or international medical specialists to discuss how best to help patients who have complex problems
  • Medically respond faster during public health emergencies or local disasters

Many Different Types of Telemedicine

Telemedicine may be as simple as using the telephone. Normally, telemedicine involves more advanced means of sharing information, including:

  • Computer display of radiographs (x-rays)
  • Electronic access to medical laboratory results
  • Electronic viewing of vital signs and life support equipment while away from the bedside
  • Audiovisual communication with patients and caregivers
  • Bedside cameras to examine patients while away from the bedside

Uses for Telemedicine

The doctor may use telemedicine to:

  • Send radiographs to radiologists located outside of the hospital so they can interpret the images
  • Routinely examine laboratory data from computers located outside of the hospital
  • View and check vital signs, life support equipment, and bedside radiographs using cameras mounted on walls, carts or robots
  • Examine patients using cameras while away from the bedside (when possible, the nurse will inform you that the camera is in use)

When using telemedicine, the care team will take the appropriate actions to guarantee your confidentiality and privacy.

With the use of telemedicine, a qualified doctor specially trained in critical care can be at your bedside virtually 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Back to top