Project to identify spare intensive care beds accelerated by pandemic

New technology allows doctors to see which hospitals have available beds in ICUs

A patient with Covid-19 being transferred in St Vincents University Hospital. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

A patient with Covid-19 being transferred in St Vincents University Hospital. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

 

A new system to provide up-to-date information on the availability of critical care beds in ICU has gone live, having been accelerated because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The system means doctors can avoid what was previously a laborious task of finding a bed by now utilising technology developed by a Dublin-based company and the National Office of Clinical Audit (NOCA).

“We’d been planning this and we’d received funding but when Covid emerged, the crucial issue in hospitals was availability of ICU beds and we got the approval from the HSE to fast-track this,” explained Dr Rory Dwyer, clinical lead at NOCA.

The technology allows doctors to look at a dashboard which tells them where ICU beds are available, whether patients have been cleared for discharge and, thus, whether the bed will soon be free, and who to contact in addition to other data.

Before this, doctors had to ring each individual hospital ICU to establish whether a bed was free.

“Certainly during the surge of Covid, hospitals that did get busy were able to look up this system and find hospitals with spare capacity,” said Dr Dwyer.

“All the effort for lockdown paid off in terms of fewer going to ICU and those who did go had a much better chance of surviving than in the UK and Italy, ” he added.

The technology had been in the planning for about 10 years, Dr Dwyer said, and the plan was to integrate with the technology used by NOCA to audit ICUs. While the Covid-19 pandemic accelerated the project, the plan is to fully automate the technology in the future.

“The issue we run in to, with the best will in the world, a lot of the patient admin systems are working well but they’re not always up to date, [in] real time,” said Dr Dwyer.

“We’re not using the automated element at the moment – we hope to develop that when there’s a bit less pressure on the system.”

The system was developed by DMF Systems, a group which already works with the HSE to deliver software for the national technology audit.