The Veterans Affairs Department has inked a 10-year contract with Royal Philips to expand its telemedicine program for critical care, the health technology company announced Wednesday.
The VA, which manages 1,800 ICU beds across the U.S., will spend up to $100 million to purchase tele-critical care technologies and services from Philips as part of the contract.
The VA's tele-critical care program involves an off-site, co-located team of critical care physicians and nurses remotely monitoring patients admitted to various intensive care units across the VA's network. The off-site team manages patients with video equipment and access to patient data, as well as predictive analytics and data visualization tools.
The VA's vision is to provide veterans with access to intensive care expertise, even if they're in an area with a shortage of critical care specialists.
"This is particularly critical to provide veterans access to quality healthcare when and where they need it and for improving their health outcomes," VA Secretary Robert Wilkie said in a statement.
A VA official at a hearing in June told the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs the agency planned to allocate some of the funding it had received from the CARES Act toward building out the VA's tele-critical care program. Congress allocated $17.2 billion to the Veterans Health Administration, as well as $2.15 billion for the VA's Office of Information and Technology.
That's "going to be critical to fortifying our ICU services both during this emergency and future emergencies," Dr. Kevin Galpin, executive director of telehealth services at the VA's Office of Connected Care, said at the June hearing.
Tele-ICU has become a popular way for hospitals to manage critical care patients amid a shortage of critical-care physicians. Just half of acute-care hospitals with intensive-care beds boast intensivist coverage, according to a recent assessment by the Society of Critical Care Medicine's education committees.
More than 20% of U.S. adult ICU beds are monitored with teleICU equipment from Philips, according to the company.
The VA's teleICU agreement is a continuation of its telemedicine work with Philips.
In October, the VA opened its first telemedicine exam room at a Veterans of Foreign Wars post as part of a 10-site pilot program. The VA plans to open the exam rooms, dubbed Accessing Telehealth through Local Area Stations and designed with Philips, at various veteran service organizations to connect veterans living in rural areas with remote VA clinicians.