Medical Consortium Aims to Create Network of Virtual Critical Care Wards

Kiryl Lis/

The group seeks to support patients in need of critical care in hospitals and other ad-hoc locations using cloud-based communication technology.

A biomedical technology consortium that works with the U.S. Army Medical Research and Development Command aims to rapidly produce virtual critical care hospital wards to help relieve intensive care units and health systems confronting intensified demands during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a request for project proposals released Friday, the Medical Technology Enterprise Consortium called for tech-driven partners to support the speedy development and deployment of the National Emergency Telecritical Care Network, or NETCCN—“a cloud-based, low-resource, stand-alone health information management system for the creation and coordination of flexible and extendable ‘virtual critical care wards.’”

According to the solicitation, this particular program is “specifically focused on preparation for COVID-19 related critical care capability shortages.” Even while the U.S. has more ICU beds per capita than many developed nations, officials note that the pandemic will likely amplify the need for more support and capabilities to serve patients in dire need. In that light, tele-critical care—or the delivery of critical care services from a distance using communications technologies—can be a “powerful force-multiplier in the extension of limited critical care resources,” officials explained.

“The vision for this program is to extend local tele-critical care capability sets to a broader, flexible network—first locally, then step-wise regionally and nationally—that can be leveraged wherever there is need,” officials wrote.

Through the RPP, the MTEC aims to create the virtual wards, or “cohorts of patients that are managed together and with continuity by the tele-critical care teams.” The hope is that they can be deployed in traditional health care facilities such as hospitals and clinics, as well as non-traditional and temporary health care facilities like field hospitals and gymnasiums. The organization wants to move fast, and set a 10-day deadline for enhanced white papers that “specifically address providing existing technologies available for other use cases that can be rapidly adapted to establishing” a NETCCN. 

In particular, MTEC aims to hear from and potentially work with entities that can provide cloud-based information storage solutions, mobile communications technologies, clinician-facing web portals, mobile-based applications, and real-time basic documentation, data collection and reporting capabilities.

MTEC is an internationally-dispersed consortium that partners with more than 300 organizations to drive innovation around medical solutions that support the U.S. military using other transaction authorities. Though MTEC membership is not required for the submission of an enhanced white paper in response, it will be mandatory for offerors recommended for award. 

Using a phased approach, officials hope to provide the first system for deployment within 45 days of award, a refined system for deployment within 6 months of award and a final system for deployment within 18 months. 

The Defense Department has up to $7 million available to fund the work in fiscal 2020, according to full solicitation.

MTEC will hold a virtual proposers conference April 20 and enhanced white papers are due April 27.