Critical Care is a Priority and Achievable

Nov 16 / Ana Maria Crawford, MD, MSc.

Global Critical Care Must be Prioritized for All Patients

On the heels of a pandemic, no other time has been as revealing of the huge gap in access to critical care across the globe.  Regardless of a nation's GDP, countries' healthcare systems were stressed to the breaking point. Millions of people died, many preventable.  Hospitals and clinics ran out of oxygen from India, to Zimbabwe, to the United States.  

It brings many of us to  consider ways to improve the delivery of time-critical care that so many people failed to receive.  It is at the heart of the definition of critical careThe Essential Emergency and Critical Care (EECC) Network defines critical care as "a state of ill health with vital organ dysfunction and a high risk of imminent death."  Notice there is no mention of Intensive Care Units, ventilators, or other advanced technology in the definition.  Wisely, this definition leaves room for consideration of critical illness.

Pediatric, adult, elderly, maternal, male or female - all patients can become critically-ill. Critical illness does not discriminate.  It affects any patient regardless of age or sex or ward or procedure or diagnosis.  Unlike many specialty-siloed healthcare systems, critical illness affects adult and obstetric patients, the elderly and the neonate.  Critical illness is not confined to a ward.

So what if critical care could be delivered anywhere? The answer is "it can"!  Early recognition of a decompensated patient is critical care.  Immediate interventions such as providing oxygen, intravenous fluids, or opening an airway are critical care.  The EECC Network has achieved a global consensus on 66 hospital readiness requirements and 40 clinical processes that must be in place in all hospitals everywhere to provide the Essential Emergency and Critical Care for all patients everywhere. 

The brilliance of this consensus is that no new personnel or medications are needed.  There is no recommendation for expensive technologies.  Rather, EECC outlines the fundamental equipment and protocols that everyone expects in every hospitals but is unfortunately are often lacking. 

 What is hospital readiness? What are clinical processes?  Check out the new EECC course for the answers!