The study was limited to Massachusetts, but the findings have national implications, NEHIPresident Wendy Everett said in an interview.
The problem of an aging population is a national one, she explains. Currently, there are 40 million people over 65 in the country; by 2030 that will jump to 72 million, "and we'll have tripled the number of folks over 85, thus dramatically increasing the demand for ICU care." Meanwhile, the shortage of critical care specialists will double nationally—by 2020 we'll only have one-half of the critically-trained physicians that we'll need.
If we don't make some creative and innovative changes in how we deliver critical care, which accounts for 4.1 percent of our national health expenditures, by 2019 our healthcare costs across the country will be at 20 percent of GDP, she says. "With the aging of the baby boomers, the demand for intensive care is increasing sharply across the U.S. just as the supply of intensive care specialists is declining. Tele-ICUs are a potential solution to this impending national crisis in critical care."
The report echoes her concerns and issues a call to action: "Now that tele-ICUs have a strong reputation based on clear evidence, we must seize the chance to speed the adoption of this valuable technology in hospitals across the country. We cannot afford to lose this opportunity to improve the quality and control the costs of critical care."