The Future of Critical Care Medicine
Dr. Raju Reddy, Pittsburgh-based MD, discusses what the future of critical care medicine might look like.
The future of critical care medicine has always been of significant concern to medical professionals, and with good reason. This concern has never been more important. Covid-19 and a reduction in staff leave remaining professions uncertain of the future.
However, the future is not without hope. While growing concerns are on the horizon, new technologies can help balance these concerns, making procedures and healthcare more approachable.
Keeping both sides in mind is essential, especially from a hospital perspective. Those that plan and work to mitigate these worries will have an easier time adapting as change comes. This does require hospitals, medical professionals, and budgets to be adaptive and forward-thinking. Let's take a moment to discuss the potential problems of the future and what can be done to minimize them.
The Risk to Critical Care Medicine
There's no way to sugarcoat the potential risks that face critical care medicine. The last two years have shown us what a pandemic can do - not just to the world but to the healthcare system. Healthcare professionals have been overworked and underpaid for years, and it is forcing them to leave in droves.
Two factors compound this situation. First, there's the ever-present risk of a new variant or pandemic. Second, the population within the U.S. is constantly aging. On the surface, this may not seem like much, as this has always been the case. However, Baby Boomers are rapidly reaching their later decades, putting more strain on hospitals and other medical facilities. In other words, the country's largest generation is hitting the point where they need more medical care than ever, which raises worries about a reduced workforce.
To put it simply, this is a supply and demand problem. We saw the same thing happen during the height of the pandemic when hospitals ran out of room. Soon there may be more people needing care than those to provide it.
Unfortunately, this is compounded by yet another problem - critical care personnel aren't replenishing at a sustainable rate. When one leaves or retires, fewer young replacements are moving up the system to take their place. This is because fewer doctors and nurses are choosing critical care as their chosen profession. The medical industry will need to find a way to make this position more attractive if they hope to balance out the numbers.
The Bright Side of Critical Care's Future
Don't let the above concerns throw you into a pit of despair - there's still hope. Hospitals can lean on technology to help balance things even if personnel numbers do not turn around. The trick is to begin preparing now.
This tech is already readily available in hospitals - advanced and remote monitoring tools, smart alerts in the ICU, and physiologic status boards. All these tools could allow for remote monitoring of patients, reducing the strain on present staff.
By allowing technology to take in some of the roles typically placed on nurses and doctors, we can help offset the load, reducing the required number of personnel per hospital wing. This is ideal, given that we're already facing a reduction in numbers.
Likewise, hospitals can invest further into eICU systems, including cameras, monitors, and better communications devices. This will require them to lean heavier on IT staff and services, but as this is a growing industry, it is less of a concern.
The application of automation and procedural care will help further streamline the process, which can help balance out these numbers. However, these systems cannot be built in a day. This is why we must plan for growing patient numbers and reduced staff; otherwise, critical care professionals will be unable to maintain the expectation of the public.
About the author
Raju Reddy MD is a medical professional who lives and works in Pittsburgh, PA. He has over 2 decades of experience as a pulmonologist and critical care specialist. To learn more about his career, visit his website, rajureddypittsburgh.net.