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Three Keys to a Successful Virtual Patient Observation Program

As hospitals and health systems strive to offer high quality patient care in an efficient, cost-effective manner, many are turning to virtual patient observation. In lieu of 1:1 in-room sitters, virtual sitter programs leverage 24/7 monitored cameras to provide real-time remote observation. And, with a platform that allows one staff member to see a dozen patients on a single screen, other uses that are less event-based, such as catching unforeseen deterioration/sepsis, assessing cognition, wound monitoring, and interval-based status notes, are more readily applied at scale.

Beyond preventing negative outcomes, virtual observation, of course, also helps floor staff be more efficient, reassures patients and family members, and ensures that hour-to-hour needs can be more quickly addressed. With this type of technology, hospitals can support more patients without overextending their resources —a critical need as hospitals continue to face ongoing staffing shortages.

However, adopting any new technology or transitioning from an older system requires careful planning. To ensure a seamless implementation, consider these three keys to success:

  • In-person go-live support: Throughout the implementation and go-live, on-site support should be available for all shifts and all program touch points, including bedside. This will allow just-in-time training and real-time problem analysis and resolution.
  • Clinical oversight: Beyond the technology components of the implementation, a critical success factor for rollout is a clinical team that can make recommendations around clinical workflow design.
  • Minimal downtime: Especially for healthcare systems with existing virtual patient observation systems, it’s essential to have a seamless transition from the existing application to the new system. By minimizing downtime, you can support positive staff expectations from day one, while mitigating the patient risks that could otherwise accrue.

With a successful implementation and proper training, you will begin seeing benefits of virtual observation, including:

  • Reduced direct costs: Organizations that replace in-room sitters with a virtual, camera-based solution can decrease FTEs while optimizing patient safety and clinical monitoring. In addition, just one hospital-related fall injury can cost up to $30,000 (not to mention legal and reputational exposure). Thus, even one prevented fall has both direct and downstream cost implications, while multi-patient monitoring that requires only a single staff member has immediate top line impact.
  • Timely opportunities for intervention: If a patient simply needs reassurance and orientation, the observer can provide that in a timely, effective manner. If a patient at fall risk attempts to leave bed, the observer can ask the patient to remain in bed until clinical staff can assist, while immediately alerting staff who can intervene. Other changes of note that might not be immediately visible via telemetry include restlessness, altered mental state, skin or wound color changes, security concerns with a visitor, and many more.
  • Potential facility-wide applications: Virtual observation technology can be used in a wide variety of applications. Extending use cases well past the ICU and general acute care, applications include confirmation of status while contemplating or awaiting transfer or discharge, newborn and infant monitoring, and ensuring that ED patients pending test results or an available clinician have “eyes on them” at all times. Long-term, transitional/rehabilitation, and home care have obvious applicability as well.

For a closer look at the implementation process and benefits of a virtual sitter program, download the case study that details Caregility’s work with OhioHealth. With Caregility, OhioHealth was able to transition rapidly and seamlessly from a previous system to the new one in a single day with minimal downtime – and ultimately take an important step toward scaling telehealth services.

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