Mayo doctors volunteer in New York ICU — from Minnesota

A woman answers a call while watching computer screens.
In a matter of days, Mayo Clinic doctors assembled a sophisticated telemedicine program that allows them to join New York doctors on their rounds.
Courtesy of Mayo Clinic file

About 60 Mayo Clinic doctors are volunteering in the intensive care unit at New York-Presbyterian Lawrence Hospital in Bronxeville, N.Y., just outside of Manhattan. Like most hospitals in the region, doctors there are inundated with COVID-19 patients.

But the Mayo Clinic doctors are doing their work right here in Minnesota. In a matter of days, they assembled a telemedicine program that would typically take months to iron out, and are now joining the New York doctors on their rounds and even managing ventilators.

Dr. Sean Caples, a pulmonology and intensive care expert at Mayo Clinic.
Dr. Sean Caples.
Courtesy of Mayo Clinic

Dr. Sean Caples, a pulmonology and intensive care expert at Mayo Clinic, explained how it works on All Things Considered.

Hear the conversation with MPR News host Tom Crann by using the audio player above, or read the transcript below. It has been lightly edited for clarity and length.

Create a More Connected Minnesota

MPR News is your trusted resource for the news you need. With your support, MPR News brings accessible, courageous journalism and authentic conversation to everyone - free of paywalls and barriers. Your gift makes a difference.

Tell us how it works

It's sort of like a Zoom connection, with a tablet on this end and a tablet on that end to make the audio-visual connection with the care team at the bedside and the patients. In addition, the team at New York-Presbyterian quickly assembled the ability for us to connect to the electronic health record of each and every patient in there, so we can look at notes, we can look at laboratory values, we can look at X-rays.

We can't do things that somebody on the ground could do, for example, putting a tube into a windpipe. But what we can bring is an expertise related to things like management of the ventilator. We can help with management of shock. We can help with medications that some doctors who are rounding in that ICU are not accustomed to. So, we're able to bring those processes of care to the physicians who are at the bedside.

What has this process taught you about the disease?

It tends to be a long, drawn out process of respiratory failure. So, all of these patients in New York are on mechanical ventilators. Weaning and liberating the patients from that assistance is a very slow process by nature of the disorder.

There seems to be some intricacies related to blood clotting that we haven't seen and other viral illnesses in our intensive care units. And the rates of kidney failure are very high.

When we are through all of this, what will you take away from your experience of this collaboration?

One of the big ones is that in a time of crisis, it's possible to think differently about how we can deliver care and how we can collaborate. I think going forward, if other crises arise, we'll be better prepared to help in a timely fashion. And I think the whole health care industry and how we deliver care is going to be different on the other end of this, because of how a crisis makes us think better.