The technology by Baltimore-based VISICU Inc. is in use at least 18 hospital systems nationwide, according to Kaleida Health System, a hospital company which last summer became the ninth system to go online.
Lucille Lamarca could feel her heart begin to beat at a worrisome pace as she lay there alone in the intensive care unit at Buffalo General Hospital with a heart condition.
Then from a speaker came a reassuring voice.
"Hi, I'm here," the voice said. "The nurse is on her way. You're going to be OK."
It was the voice of a doctor who had been keeping an eye on Lamarca from an office building miles away, via a camera and a bank of computer screens.
The hospital's parent, Kaleida Health System, is among an expanding number of hospital systems adopting "enhanced intensive care" technology - known as eICU - that allows critical care doctors and nurses to monitor dozens of patients at different hospitals simultaneously, much as an air traffic controller keeps track of several planes.
From the Kaleida control station Monday, health professionals were monitoring 58 patients at two hospitals via screens that displayed patients' diagnosis and progress, doctors' notes and vital signs, such as heart rate and blood pressure.
The professionals watching from afar alerted those on duty at the hospitals to changes or problems through videoconferencing equipment at the nurses' stations.