Northeast Georgia Health System (NGHS) recently learned that a grant application they participated in with Emory University and other Atlanta area hospitals has been approved by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) for a $10.7 million Health Care Innovations Award. This grant will fund a plan to build a collaborative network to support intensive care units in North Georgia. By combining specialty training for nurse practitioners and physician assistants with telemedicine intensive care services, the collaborative will improve critical care for patients in rural and underserved areas.Announced May 8 by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, this grant was one of only 26 awarded nationwide. These 26 are the first phase of the Health Care Innovation Awards, which were made possible by the federal health care law, the Affordable Care Act. The grants were created to support innovative projects designed to save money, deliver high quality medical care and enhance the healthcare workforce.
“We can’t wait to support innovative projects that will save money and make our health care system stronger,” said Secretary Sebelius. “It’s yet another way we are supporting local communities now in their efforts to provide better care and lower cost.”
In addition to Emory University, NGHS is partnering with Saint Joseph’s Health System, Southern Regional Medical Center and telemedicine provider Philips Healthcare to form the North Georgia Critical Care Collaborative (NGCCC). Jim Bailey, PhD, MD, NGHS’ Chief Medical Informatics Officer, was instrumental in the construction of the cohort and the grant application and serves as co-director of the NGCCC along with Timothy Buchman, PhD, MD, director of the Emory Center for Critical Care.
“As our population ages, more and more Americans will require an admission to an intensive care unit,” says Dr. Buchman “Those patients and their families depend on getting the right care – right now, through life-supporting treatments that require not only advanced technology but also a team of skilled caregivers.”
“Northeast Georgia Health System is pleased to be part of such an important initiative that will improve the quality of critical care throughout the northeast Georgia region we serve,” adds Dr. Bailey. “As a regional provider of tertiary care services in northeast Georgia, NGHS is excited to partner with Emory and the other collaborative partners in developing an innovative ICU care model that can help the entire region.”
The initiative’s intent is to utilize the educational resources of Emory University to train nurse practitioners and physician assistants as critical care specialists and integrate telemedicine ICU (“tele-ICU”) services into community hospitals, which will give patients, families, and community hospitals the benefit of around-the-clock, two-way audiovisual consultation, monitoring and advice from a highly experienced ICU doctor and critical care nurse working with a specially trained provider continuously present in the community ICU. The intensivists in the ICU at NGMC will eventually be able to serve as the hub for the surrounding community hospitals in northeast Georgia to provide this important consulting service, allowing their patients to stay closer to home for critical care services. Funds to start the initiative will be available this year, and then the partner organizations will start implementing the project, which is expected to be fully implemented no later than early 2015.
Across the country, delivery of quality critical care is under extreme pressure because of the decrease in critical care providers, causing many intensive care units to close and requiring families to travel far from home seeking increasingly scarce ICU beds, often leaving their jobs and families at home.
“We are thrilled that the grant for this innovative ICU care model has been awarded so that we can help support the critical care services in northeast Georgia and help to keep families close to home during critical illness,” says Carol H. Burrell, President and CEO of NGHS.