Rapid deployment of international tele-intensive care unit services in war-torn Syria

Anas Moughrabieh, Craig R Weinert

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations

Abstract

The conflict in Syria has created the largest humanitarian emergency of the twenty-first century. The 4-year Syrian conflict has destroyed hospitals and severely reduced the capacity of intensive care units (ICUs) and on-site intensivists. The crisis has triggered attempts from abroad to support the medical care of severely injured and acutely ill civilians inside Syria, including application of telemedicine. Within the United States, tele-ICU programs have been operating for more than a decade, albeit with high start-up costs and generally long development times.With the benefit of lessons drawn from those domestic models, the Syria Tele-ICU program was launched in December 2012 to manage the care of ICU patients in parts of Syria by using inexpensive, off-theshelf video cameras, free social media applications, and a volunteer network of Arabic-speaking intensivists in North America and Europe. Within 1 year, 90 patients per month in three ICUs were receiving tele-ICU services. At the end of 2015, a network of approximately 20 participating intensivists was providing clinical decision support 24 hours per day to five civilian ICUs in Syria. The volunteer clinicians manage patients at a distance of more than 6,000 miles, separated by seven or eight time zones between North America and Syria. The program is implementing a cloud-based electronic medical record for physician documentation and a medication administration record for nurses. There are virtual chat rooms for patient rounds, radiology review, and trainee teaching. The early success of the program shows how a small number of committed physicians can use inexpensive equipment spawned by the Internet revolution to support from afar civilian health care delivery in a high-conflict country.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)165-172
Number of pages8
JournalAnnals of the American Thoracic Society
Volume13
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 2016

Keywords

  • Civil disorder
  • Health services
  • Telemedicine

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