HRMC opens new Tele ICU unit

Small, rural hospital continues to break new ground with state-of-the-art technology and best-in-class patient care.

VARNVILLE, S.C. (May 6, 2021) — In the Intensive Care Unit (ICU), every second counts, no matter the hour or the day. Now, thanks to technology and partnerships, life-saving critical care is only the push of a button away for patients in our local ICU.


On May 6, Hampton Regional Medical Center (HRMC) cut the ribbon on its new Tele-ICU Unit. Through a partnership with the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) Health and Hicuity Health, HRMC is now able to provide advanced intensive care around the clock through the use of telemedicine technology.


Faced with challenges that include remote locations and a shortage of specialists and intensive healthcare providers, many rural hospitals are turning more and more to virtual tele-health to provide quality care for their rural populations, and HRMC has fully embraced this concept.
“We can now keep patients closer to home, with their families near, and still provide the critical care they need,” said Cam Ulmer, a Registered Nurse who helps oversee the program. “It has been a blessing for this hospital, and for the whole community. Just having the support of an Intensivist is huge.”


Located inside the hospital’s five-bed Intensive Care Unit are two fully equipped Hicuity Health rooms, complete with high-resolution cameras and monitors to enable healthcare providers at the bedside to communicate directly with advanced specialists that may be on the other side of the continent. For small hospitals that can’t afford to keep an Intensivist on staff, this technology will make it possible to keep sicker patients locally for longer.


Kim Tuttle is Director of the Cardiology and Pulmonary Department at HRMC and was the program manager that helped make the new ICU unit a reality. It took several months to plan and implement this project, an effort which involved a great deal of assistance from the hospital’s IT department.


“This is a dream come true for us,” said Tuttle. “We can now keep patients that are a little sicker, and there is always someone available at locations around the country that can help us take care of the patients.”


The partnership with Hicuity Health, the national leader in critical care telemedicine, allows HRMC to deliver care by highly trained Intensivists Physicians and Critical Care Specialists around the clock, seven days a week. The Hicuity Health and MUSC Health team works from remote operations center, using technology to communicate with local providers and monitor the patients’ real-time vital signs, lab results and clinical status.


HRMC Nurse Practitioners and Hospitalists provide the personal, hands-on care the patient needs, while cameras and technology put specialists and Intensivists right there in the room with the patient as well. The cameras are so state-of-the-art that doctors can zoom in to read a name tag or chart, and there is a special emergency button if immediate assistance is needed. Press the green button, and within 30 seconds a doctor is on the screen, day or night.


There are multiple advantages in adding this unit.


“First, we wanted to keep some of the sicker patients here, so their families don’t have to travel so far,” said Dr. Zane Osbourne, Emergency Room Director and Lead Physician on the Tele-ICU team. “It’s also a boon for the community because it increases the level of care we can provide here and increases patient safety. This shows [hospital administrator] Dave Hammill’s commitment to making this a top-notch facility for the community. We are really excited about it and have had some good results so far.”


Other advantages include the ability to better take care of COVID-19 patients that need critical care like ventilators, as well lower medical bills for patients that get to stay local instead of being transported to larger facilities. Hospital directors also hope that offering a higher level of care will attract more physicians and specialists to the area.


If local providers can’t provide the patient’s needs through tele-health consultation, then the sickest patients are transported to hospitals like MUSC for further care.


The Tele-ICU unit was funded by a three-year grant from MUSC Health. If the program is successful at HRMC, directors hope to continue it and expand it. HRMC’s goal is to offer Tele-ICU in all five of the ICU rooms.

For more information, contact HRMC at 803-943-2771 or go to HamptonRegional.org.