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ICU Telemedicine and Critical Care Mortality

A National Effectiveness Study

Kahn, Jeremy M., MD, MS; Le, Tri Q., MPH; Barnato, Amber E., MD, MPH, MS; Hravnak, Marilyn, PhD, RN; Kuza, Courtney C., MPH; Pike, Francis, PhD; Angus, Derek C., MD, MPH

doi: 10.1097/MLR.0000000000000485
Original Articles

Background: Intensive care unit (ICU) telemedicine is an increasingly common strategy for improving the outcome of critical care, but its overall impact is uncertain.

Objectives: To determine the effectiveness of ICU telemedicine in a national sample of hospitals and quantify variation in effectiveness across hospitals.

Research Design: We performed a multicenter retrospective case-control study using 2001–2010 Medicare claims data linked to a national survey identifying US hospitals adopting ICU telemedicine. We matched each adopting hospital (cases) to up to 3 nonadopting hospitals (controls) based on size, case-mix, and geographic proximity during the year of adoption. Using ICU admissions from 2 years before and after the adoption date, we compared outcomes between case and control hospitals using a difference-in-differences approach.

Results: A total of 132 adopting case hospitals were matched to 389 similar nonadopting control hospitals. The preadoption and postadoption unadjusted 90-day mortality was similar in both case hospitals (24.0% vs. 24.3%, P=0.07) and control hospitals (23.5% vs. 23.7%, P<0.01). In the difference-in-differences analysis, ICU telemedicine adoption was associated with a small relative reduction in 90-day mortality (ratio of odds ratios=0.96; 95% CI, 0.95–0.98; P<0.001). However, there was wide variation in the ICU telemedicine effect across individual hospitals (median ratio of odds ratios=1.01; interquartile range, 0.85–1.12; range, 0.45–2.54). Only 16 case hospitals (12.2%) experienced statistically significant mortality reductions postadoption. Hospitals with a significant mortality reduction were more likely to have large annual admission volumes (P<0.001) and be located in urban areas (P=0.04) compared with other hospitals.

Conclusions: Although ICU telemedicine adoption resulted in a small relative overall mortality reduction, there was heterogeneity in effect across adopting hospitals, with large-volume urban hospitals experiencing the greatest mortality reductions.

*Department of Critical Care Medicine, CRISMA Center, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine

Department of Health Policy & Management, University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health

Division of General Internal Medicine, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine

§Department of Acute and Tertiary Care, University of Pittsburgh School of Nursing

Department of Biostatistics, University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health, Pittsburgh, PA

Supported by the United States National Institutes of Health (R01HL120980).

First presented in abstract form at the American Thoracic Society International Conference, May, 2105, Denver, CO.

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Reprints: Jeremy M. Kahn, MD, MS, Department of Health Policy & Management, University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health, Scaife Hall Room 602-B, 3550 Terrace Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15261. E-mail:

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