Extra Set of Eyes a Big Deal for Patients, Nurses

The dilemma: hospitals want to improve patient satisfaction, but it’s tough to hire enough nurses. CHI Health is trying out an innovative new program to see whether having a virtual nurse off the floor — and connected with patients through a two-way camera in the hospital room — will make for happier patients and help ease the nursing shortage.

It’s called Virtually Integrated Care and it’s being piloted at CHI Health St. Elizabeth in Lincoln and CHI Health Good Samaritan in Kearney.

“Recent interviews of 70 virtual care patients found they liked the convenient, fast and accessible response of the virtual nurses,” said CHI Health Virtual Care Coordinator and Grant Principal Investigator Sue Schuelke, PhD, RN-BC. “They liked how they provided good information and offered another layer of care.”

Here’s how the promising new program works: the virtual nurse monitors up to 24 patients at a time and helps out the care team as an extra set of eyes. The virtual nurse monitors patient care, answers questions, provides patient education, rounds with providers, coaches floor nurses and helps with discharge planning. If a patient has a problem, he hits his call light and asks to speak with the virtual nurse.

“The virtual nurse can help with the admission and discharge process,” said Judy Moore, RN, project coordinator of virtual nursing at Good Samaritan. “And that helps free up the staff nurse to be at the bedside of patients.” CHI Health also offers eICU in its hospitals, where doctors and nurses monitor the sickest patients in the hospital — those in the intensive care unit — from an off-site location.

“Data has shown a reduction in ICU and hospital length of stay,” said CHI Health Director of Critical Care Kim Sieck, RN, MSN, CCRN. “It also shows a decrease in mortality and morbidity for these patients.” The Virtually Integrated Care program is possible because of a three-year grant from the Health Resources & Services Administration to expand an innovative new approach to patient care.