More patients are finding their way from the emergency department to the intensive care unit (ICU), according to a study by researchers at the George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services (SPHHS). After reviewing data collected from a sample of U.S. hospital-based emergency departments over a seven-year period, researchers found that ICU admissions jumped from 2.79 million in 2002-2003 to 4.14 million in 2008-2009. During the same period, overall emergency department admissions grew by only 5.8%. The study’s lead author, Peter Mullins, suggests the increase in ICU patients “might be the result of an older, sicker population that needs more care.” Indeed, one of the other key findings from the study is that ICU admissions grew most among patients aged 85 and older—increasing 25% every two years. The trend is likely to continue as the baby boomers get older. The increasing demand for intensive care services will only further exacerbate the shortage of intensivists. Earlier this year, a survey found that only 20% of respondents staff their ICUs exclusively with board certified intensivists. The shortage of intensivists has led many organizations to rely on hospitalists to treat ICU patients. A survey conducted by the Society of Hospital Medicine (SHM) found that 75% of hospitalists work in the ICU. The reliance on hospitalists in the Society of Critical Care Medicine (SCCM) and SHM to propose and accelerated training program for hospitalists who work in the ICU. Other organizations have turned to telemedicine to help address the intensivist shortage. Avera’s eICU CARE program electronically connects its centralized ICU department, based in Sioux Falls, SD, to 33 rural facilities in the area. The system allows the staff to monitor critically ill patients across multiple locations, avoiding transfers to larger hospitals as well as limiting reliance on hospitalists. Organizations may also use locum tenens intensivists to make up for gaps in their staffing plan. Here at Barton Associates, we have pool of board-certified intensivists ready to help your organization. For more information visit our facilities page.