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Understanding Telehealth Security Risks: 6 Considerations When Evaluating Video Solutions

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Understanding Telehealth Security Risks: 6 Considerations When Evaluating Video Solutions

Virtual observation systems are rapidly gaining traction in a variety of healthcare settings, serving as a first line of defense for at-risk patients by alerting clinical staff so they can quickly intervene. This technology also drives workflow efficiency by freeing up clinical staff — who might otherwise be assigned to sit and monitor patients in-person — to perform other tasks.

Patient bedside systems can be portable wireless units or permanent installations that consist of a video camera and two-way audio that transmits to a central monitoring station. Cameras can tilt, pan, zoom, and utilize night vision technology when lighting is dim. Each monitoring station is typically staffed by a trained virtual sitter, often a nurse tech, who watches up to 10 to 12 patients at a time. The observer can centrally observe a group of patients either within a single facility or across multiple facilities.

Virtual Patient Observation: Common Applications

Common applications for virtual observation include:

  • Rapid response
  • Fall prevention in hospitals
  • High-risk patient monitoring (harm to self, harm to/from others)
  • NICU observation
  • Telestroke management
  • Patient transfers

Not all patients are viable candidates for virtual observation. Typically, a patient’s nurse and clinical staff will determine if a patient meets the criteria for virtual observation by considering a variety of factors and asking questions such as: Is the patient re-directable? Does the patient have low impulsivity? Is the patient able to hear and comprehend verbal direction?

If the answer to any of the above questions is “no,” the patient may instead benefit from having a physical sitter in the room.

8 Things to Look for in a Virtual Observation Solution

If you’re considering implementing virtual patient observation technology within your organization, you’ll want to make sure that the solutions you’re considering have the capabilities you’re looking for. Make sure to ask potential vendors about these features:

  1. Does the system have one-way or two-way audio and/or video capability? In some situations, you may want to talk to a patient without using two-way video. Or you may want only one-way video capability (for example, if you want to observe the patient, but don’t need them to be able to see the remote observer).
  2. Does the camera have pan, tilt, and zoom capability?
  3. Is there an alerting/notification system to bring someone to the bedside quickly, if needed?
  4. Does the camera have night vision capabilities so that you can clearly observe patients when the room is dark?
  5. Does the system offer language translation? Which languages? This doesn’t work for two-way communication but can be helpful for simple instructions like telling the patient to stay in bed while a nurse is alerted.
  6. What types of reporting and analytics does it provide to help you demonstrate ROI back to your organization?
  7. Can the software be delivered with a cart or a wall system? Can the hardware be installed from the ceiling or the wall, or wherever you need it to be, based on your room configuration? If you already have certain technology, such as camera capability, in the room can the software integrate easily into your existing telehealth system? Or, will you need to use a different device for each application?
  8. Is the technology scalable? What additional costs might there be if you want to scale the solution across multiple facilities? What are the applicable licensing fees?

How to Tell if Your Organization Can Benefit from Virtual Patient Observation

The decision to use virtual observation technology must be made by carefully evaluating the needs of your patients, staff, and organization. How do you see the technology being implemented within your organization or facility? Do you have existing technology that might be integrated with new virtual observation software?

Here are some additional questions to consider if you are evaluating a virtual patient observation solution for your organization or facility:

  1. What is our current daily/monthly/annual spend on physical sitters?
  2. What are our current fall rates per patient day?
  3. Are there other use cases that we might be able to leverage with the technology?
  4. Are there issues with inappropriate transfers from outside locations?
  5. What is our ICU bounce-back rate?
  6. What is our post-acute hospital readmission rate?

From night-vision features to language translation services, there are key capabilities to be mindful of as you lay out your virtual care and observation strategy.

Download our white paper Considering Virtual Observation for Your Healthcare Organization, for more detail on key factors to consider when identifying the right virtual observation solution for your healthcare organization.

Learn More

Virtual Observation: Practical Application and 8 Things to Look for in a Solution

Virtual observation systems are rapidly gaining traction in a variety of healthcare settings, serving as a first line of defense for at-risk patients by alerting clinical staff so they can quickly intervene. This technology also drives workflow efficiency by freeing up clinical staff — who might otherwise be assigned to sit and monitor patients in-person — to perform other tasks.

Patient bedside systems can be portable wireless units or permanent installations that consist of a video camera and two-way audio that transmits to a central monitoring station. Cameras can tilt, pan, zoom, and utilize night vision technology when lighting is dim. Each monitoring station is typically staffed by a trained virtual sitter, often a nurse tech, who watches up to 10 to 12 patients at a time. The observer can centrally observe a group of patients either within a single facility or across multiple facilities.

Virtual Patient Observation: Common Applications

Common applications for virtual observation include:

  • Rapid response
  • Fall prevention in hospitals
  • High-risk patient monitoring (harm to self, harm to/from others)
  • NICU observation
  • Telestroke management
  • Patient transfers

Not all patients are viable candidates for virtual observation. Typically, a patient’s nurse and clinical staff will determine if a patient meets the criteria for virtual observation by considering a variety of factors and asking questions such as: Is the patient re-directable? Does the patient have low impulsivity? Is the patient able to hear and comprehend verbal direction?

If the answer to any of the above questions is “no,” the patient may instead benefit from having a physical sitter in the room.

8 Things to Look for in a Virtual Observation Solution

If you’re considering implementing virtual patient observation technology within your organization, you’ll want to make sure that the solutions you’re considering have the capabilities you’re looking for. Make sure to ask potential vendors about these features:

  1. Does the system have one-way or two-way audio and/or video capability? In some situations, you may want to talk to a patient without using two-way video. Or you may want only one-way video capability (for example, if you want to observe the patient, but don’t need them to be able to see the remote observer).
  2. Does the camera have pan, tilt, and zoom capability?
  3. Is there an alerting/notification system to bring someone to the bedside quickly, if needed?
  4. Does the camera have night vision capabilities so that you can clearly observe patients when the room is dark?
  5. Does the system offer language translation? Which languages? This doesn’t work for two-way communication but can be helpful for simple instructions like telling the patient to stay in bed while a nurse is alerted.
  6. What types of reporting and analytics does it provide to help you demonstrate ROI back to your organization?
  7. Can the software be delivered with a cart or a wall system? Can the hardware be installed from the ceiling or the wall, or wherever you need it to be, based on your room configuration? If you already have certain technology, such as camera capability, in the room can the software integrate easily into your existing telehealth system? Or, will you need to use a different device for each application?
  8. Is the technology scalable? What additional costs might there be if you want to scale the solution across multiple facilities? What are the applicable licensing fees?

How to Tell if Your Organization Can Benefit from Virtual Patient Observation

The decision to use virtual observation technology must be made by carefully evaluating the needs of your patients, staff, and organization. How do you see the technology being implemented within your organization or facility? Do you have existing technology that might be integrated with new virtual observation software?

Here are some additional questions to consider if you are evaluating a virtual patient observation solution for your organization or facility:

  1. What is our current daily/monthly/annual spend on physical sitters?
  2. What are our current fall rates per patient day?
  3. Are there other use cases that we might be able to leverage with the technology?
  4. Are there issues with inappropriate transfers from outside locations?
  5. What is our ICU bounce-back rate?
  6. What is our post-acute hospital readmission rate?

From night-vision features to language translation services, there are key capabilities to be mindful of as you lay out your virtual care and observation strategy.

Download our white paper Considering Virtual Observation for Your Healthcare Organization, for more detail on key factors to consider when identifying the right virtual observation solution for your healthcare organization.

Learn More

Virtual Sitters: How Hospitals are Protecting Patients While Keeping Costs Down

Today, hospitals and healthcare systems need to innovate in order to do more with less by providing exceptional patient care without overstretching their resources. One way that hospitals have improved patient care and reduced costs is through virtual patient observation, or virtual sitters.

Patient sitters traditionally provided in-room support to patients at risk of falling, injury, self-harm, or other behavioral issues. But, providing a physical sitter in each room can amount to a hefty unbudgeted expense for healthcare organizations.

Thanks largely to recent advancements in telehealth, virtual patient observation has emerged as a cost-effective alternative to the use of live patient sitters. These camera-based e-sitters help hospitals overcome financial hurdles while improving patient safety. The real-time remote monitoring solutions enable clinical staff to simultaneously support higher numbers of at-risk patients via two-way video and audio feeds.

Virtual sitting can reduce hospital costs and improve patient safety. Here’s how.

Financial Benefits of Virtual Patient Observation

The use non-clinical staff to provide bedside patient monitoring — also known as “specialling” — is a common practice in hospitals. Patient sitters provide in-room support to patients at risk of injury while freeing up nurses to focus on clinical duties.

The drawback is that these services are not reimbursed. Even though non-clinical staff typically receive lower wages than clinical staff, the cost can add up quickly. One 900-bed hospital, for example, saw an annual unbudgeted expense of $3 million for patient sitters.

Virtual patient observation can be used in a variety of settings but is key to helping hospitals avoid costs from fall injuries. Every year hundreds of thousands of patients fall in hospitals, with one-third resulting in serious injury. The Joint Commission estimates that, on average, a fall with injury costs $14,000, but depending on the severity of the injury, unreimbursed costs for treating a single hospital-related fall injury can be up to $30,000.

How Virtual Patient Observation Protects Patients

Virtual observation technology can be used for physical observation of high-risk patients. This could include patients on telemetry, those who require frequent suctioning, or patients who frequently bounce back to the ICU. It can also be used to remotely monitor blood pressure or other equipment in the room.

But there are many other applications of virtual patient monitoring that can also add value to patient safety protocols, including:

Lower fall risk: If a patient who is a fall risk attempts to leave his or her bed, the virtual observer can address the patient over a speaker, advising him or her to stay in bed, and then can alert clinical staff to assist the patient.

Lower suicide risk: If the patient poses a risk to him- or herself, the virtual observer can act as a second set of eyes (often in addition to a physical sitter in the room) to keep that patient safe.

Reduced risky or dangerous behavior: Virtual patient observation can be a deterrent for negative or dangerous interactions with others. This can include dissuading visitors from brining a patient something that might put them at risk (e.g., outside medications or illicit drugs), or functioning as a second set of eyes if a patient has the potential to become aggressive or violent.

Continuous monitoring while waiting for care: As patients wait to be transferred — to a higher or lower level of care, from the ED to a critical care bed, or to an outside organization —virtual sitting can help provide continuous monitoring.

Faster care when physicians are not physically available: Virtual sitting can also be helpful when providers aren’t physically available. In this situation, a rapid response team with mobile carts can utilize camera capability for visual assessment.

NICU observation: Virtual sitting can also be beneficial for the littlest patients. A remote clinician can provide continuous monitoring of newborns and infants in the NICU through one central location.

Virtual patient monitoring has the capability to improve patient safety while enabling hospitals to more efficiently allocate resources —all without sacrificing the essential human-to-human element of patient care.

To find out more about how virtual sitting resources work, which patients are candidates, and what to look for in a solution, download our white paper, Considering Virtual Observation for Your Healthcare Organization.

Learn More