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Synchronized Video Cameras, Computers in Emergency Rooms

Every year an estimated five million Americans are rushed to U.S. hospitals for emergency care. But according to a new study, there are not enough intensive care physicians and nurses to treat them.

In Northern Virginia, outside Washington, DC, a group of hospitals is using technology to ease the workload by monitoring patients at several different hospitals remotely. Nurse Melanie Swecker says, "No matter how good of a nurse you are, and I've been a nurse for a long time, I can't be in two places at once."

Now she gets extra help from physicians and nurses kilometers away, monitoring her patients. Dr. Elizabeth Cowboy is one of the physicians.

Via computer, Dr. Cowboy reads medical charts, checks breathing, heart rates, and other vital signs. The monitoring station is called an enhanced intensive care unit. Increasingly, medical centers in the U.S. are benefiting from them.

One Nurse states that, "We've had patients whose oxygen comes off who try to get out of bed that our eyes, our cameras have been able to see faster than the nurse who is busy in the next room where the patients (were) very critical."

Dr. Cowboy says, "We have been able to assist the bedside team in saving lives."

Online physicians like Elizabeth Cowboy won't replace local medical staffs, but it does add comfort and a layer of protection and expertise.

One Hospital Patient mentioned, “This morning I had a problem with my oxygen going down, and they were like Johnny on the spot (they responded quickly)."

One study found the units reduced mortality for intensive care patients by 27 percent. Proponents claim they shorten hospital stays, reducing costs, and can be of benefit to nursing home residents as well as hospital patients.

It's one more way technology can and is benefiting lives.