A recent study conducted by LA BioMed and UCLA researchers state that the Intensive Care Units that offer the most invasive and pricey treatment in hospitals are being over utilized by patients who don't need that intensity of care.

ICU Admission Rates

Dong W. Chang, M.D., and LA BioMed researcher and his team conducted a study on ICU admissions at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center between July 1, 2015 and June 15, 2016. The team discovered that more than 50 percent of the patients admitted in the ICU could have been taken care of in less pricey and invasive rooms.

The study that revealed the overutilization of ICUs noted that 23.4 percent of the patients just needed to be under close observation, but not the ICU level care. About 20.9 percent of patients were suffering from severe illness and were not likely to recover, whereas, another 8 percent of the patients either had death on the cards or their condition was expected to remain the same in a non-ICU care as well.

Chang pointed out that more than half of the patients in ICU rooms were either too sick or too well to gain advantage from the care. They could have gotten similar care in non-ICU rooms.

"This research indicates that ICU care is inefficient because it is devoting substantial resources to patients who are less likely to benefit from this level of care," said Dr. Chang, author of the study, in a press release.

The study was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Internal Medicine.

Guidelines Provided By SCCM On ICU Admissions

The guidelines provided by the Society of Critical Care Medicine (SCCM) that designates patients for ICU care are based on the estimated degree of benefit. Following the highest to lowest order of priority, the qualifications go as below:

Priority 1 – crucially ill, requiring intensive treatment and observation that is not possible outside ICUs

Priority 2 – not crucially ill, but may need close observation and probably urgent intervention

Priority 3 – crucially ill with reduced possibility of recovering back due to underlying diseases or suffering from severe illness

Priority 4 – not suited for ICU care as illness is irreversible or death is imminent

Approaches Needed To Improve ICU Utilization

Though the study was performed on data from one hospital, the researchers believe that the findings about ICU utilization are pretty common and may be prevailing across many other medical centers.

Chang proposed that the best way to make efficient use of a healthcare system's limited resources is to improve its capability to identify unsuitable patients placed in ICU care and develop approaches to refine ICU utilization for those patients.

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