Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Clinical and Translational Science

First Advisor

Alan Rubin

Second Advisor

Renee D. Stapleton


Patients admitted to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) are critically ill and often at extremely high risk of death. These patients receive aggressive interventions to prolong their lives. Despite these measures, many patients still succumb to their illness. Although ICU physicians are good at predicting which patients have a high risk of mortality, they are still offering interventions that do not prolong life, but potentially cause more suffering at the end of life. This is because there is a lack of high quality and early communication to discuss prognosis and establish patients' goals of care. This gap in communication is even more profound when patients are transferring from rural hospitals to busy tertiary care centers.

This dissertation discusses the utilization of tele-video conferencing to enhance early communication with family members/loved ones of critically ill patients prior to their transfer from a rural hospital to a tertiary care center. It begins with a description of telemedicine and its uses in the ICU to date. Chapter 2 discusses the poor prognoses of patients receiving high intensity interventions such as cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). The extremely dismal outcomes underscore the importance of early, thorough discussions regarding prognosis and goals of care in these patients. The next chapter describes a pilot study utilizing telemedicine to conduct formal unstructured telemedicine conferences with family members prior to transfer. This study demonstrated that palliative care consultations can be provided via telemedicine for critically ill patients and that adequate preparation and technical expertise are essential. Although this study is limited by the nature of the retrospective review, it is evident that more research is needed to further assess its applicability, utility and acceptability. Chapter 4 describes an investigation into the barriers and facilitators of conducting conferences via telemedicine and the perceptions of clinicians regarding the use of telemedicine for this purpose. This chapter identified unique barriers and facilitators to the use of telemedicine that will need to be addressed when designing a telemedicine intervention for conducting family conferences.

This thesis describes the importance and process of implementation of telemedicine for the novel purpose of enhancing early communication among physicians and family members of critically ill loved ones. Further studies are needed to refine and investigate patient and family centered clinical outcomes utilizing this intervention.



Number of Pages

87 p.