Emory Center for Critical Care Receives Health Care Innovations Award

May 2012

The Emory Center for Critical Care (ECCC) has received a $10.7 million Health Care Innovations Award from the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) for its project "Rapid Development and Deployment of Non-Physician Providers in Critical Care," a plan to build a collaborative network known as the North Georgia Critical Care Collaborative (NGCCC) to support intensive care units in rural North Georgia, thereby improving critical care for patients in rural and underserved areas. CMS is an operating division of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

Made possible by the health care law—the Affordable Care Act—the first wave of Health Care Innovations awards will support 26 innovative projects nationwide that will save money, deliver high quality medical care and enhance the health care workforce. The preliminary awardees are expected to reduce health spending by $254 million over the next three years.

Emory received the second highest sum of the awardees and was the first project highlighted by Health and Human Services in its press release announcing the awards.

As the NGCCC, the ECCC will partner with Saint Joseph's Health System, Northeast Georgia Health System, Southern Regional Medical Center, and telemedicine provider Philips Healthcare. Dr. Timothy Buchman, director of the ECCC, is the architect of the project as well as director of the new NGCCC. Dr. James Bailey, chief medical informatics officer at Northeast Georgia Health System, is co-director.

"Across the country, many ICUs—more than 1,000 between 1985 and 2005 and especially those in community and rural hospitals—have closed for lack of qualified doctors and other staff," says Dr. Buchman as he explains the extreme pressure that delivery of critical care has been experiencing. "As a result, patients and families now find themselves traveling long distances to unfamiliar places for critical care, wherever an open ICU bed can be found. And those open beds have become much harder to find."

Emory and its community partners will address this problem by bringing more than 40 critical care professionals, including 20 nurse practitioners and physician assistants, from their local hospitals and communities to Emory for six months of advanced training. They will then return to their community hospitals to provide high-quality care, enabled by telemedicine ICU services that will feature highly experienced ICU doctors and critical care nurses working closely with the specially trained providers in the community ICUs. This process is expected to greatly improve access to dependable community ICU health care, will serve over ten thousand Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries, and is calculated to save more than $18 million over three years.

"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. For all Americans, this is a program that saves cost, saves money, saves time and saves lives and can be quickly adopted and replicated in other communities and scaled to local needs."

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