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Telemedicine Gives Northwell Health a Better Path to Organ Donations

Northwell Health is using Philips' eICU telemedicine platform to improve the organ donation process, parceling out administrative tasks and giving nurses more time at the bedside.

Source: ThinkStock

By Eric Wicklund

- New York’s largest health system is using a telemedicine platform to improve the organ donation process – a digital health boost that is easing the workload for nurses and giving them more time for bedside care and support.

The 22-hospital Northwell Health system is using Philips’ eICU platform to identify candidates for organ donations and smooth the process from selection to surgery. Their partner in the program is LiveOnNY, a 40-year-old non-profit that works through 10 transplant centers and coordinates care with hospitals throughout the New York City area.

“Telemedicine is just a very natural fit,” says Iris Berman, MSN, RN, the health system’s vice president of telehealth services. “We’re getting everything we need in near real-time from multiple information sources. It makes the process so much easier.”

“Essentially, it allows us to be in multiple places at once,” she adds.

The organ donation process is a tricky one, a mixture of high-tech medicine and compassionate care borne from the idea that one person’s loss is another’s gain. No one feels that pressure more than the nurses who identify potential organ donors, then have to coordinate with the transplant centers while also providing care and support to the patient and family.

The process begins when an ICU patient is identified as a potential organ donor and is then assessed on the Glasgow Coma Scale, by which clinicians measure the patient’s response to stimuli. Following that assessment, the care team contacts LiveOnNY – while also working with family members to make sure all questions are answered and concerns are addressed.

Through the Philips eICU platform, which has been in place at Northwell since 2014, potential organ donors are already flagged, giving the eICU team a heads-up. Once the on-site nurse makes the assessment, the eICU team takes over, handling the connection with LiveOnNY while the on-site nurse cares for the patient and works with family members.

“That’s our clinical trigger,” says Matt Groveman, senior development specialist at LiveOnNY. “We’re sort of going in cold. We need time to evaluate the patient clinically and to evaluate the family socially and emotionally. [A telemedicine platform] helps us to optimize the process and help out the nurse at the bedside.”

Berman says the telemedicine platform also enables eICU nurses to take a step back and look at the whole process, a benefit not always available for nurses who are dealing intimately with patients and their families.

“It’s really about workflow,” she adds, estimating the platform has saved hundreds –if not thousands – of hours per year in bedside time for the nurses. “You’re taking the time a nurse would spend on the phone (or tracking down information) and giving it back to that nurse to spend with the patient and the family.”

In an analysis of the almost-two-year-old partnership between Northwell Health and LiveOnNY, officials found that the telemedicine platform boosted the number of organ referrals by 121 percent, while improving the donation rate by almost 34 percent and increasing the number of transplants by 36 percent. In terms of time, the entire process was improved by about 10 percent.

Berman says the eICU platform enables Northwell to “amplify care” by giving nurses and doctors more time to be care providers and less time in front of a computer or on a phone. By separating those functions out through telemedicine, the process is streamlined, the data is collected and the care paths are more defined.

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