Most people in Washington State might assume that after undergoing an operation they would be monitored by health care professionals in person. It seems, however, that not all post-surgical care is actually delivered in this manner.
As reported by National Public Radio, there is a special type of intensive care unit called an electronic intensive care unit that features a collection of electronic monitoring devices setup to track a patient’s status. These devices are in turn monitored by actual people in an offsite location. A new documentary recounts one case in which a woman was put into one of these eICUs after having surgery to replace a hip.
The film was actually made by the son of the patient. During the woman’s stay in the unit, she lapsed into a coma that went undetected by the monitors or remote staff for a day and a half. During this time, she experienced heavy bleeding that contributed to an eventual permanent brain injury.
The son was actually told by person running the eICU that the cameras in his mother’s room were turned off to protect the patient’s privacy. Upon pursuing the injuries his mother experienced, the man identified serious gaps in accountability within the eICU. This story exposes the importance of asking detailed questions not only about a procedure but also about the follow-up care that a person might receive. It is also important for every patient to have a person designated to advocate for them when they must have an operation.