It’s not uncommon to meet professionals inspired by their family legacy working in healthcare. Although Heidi Steiner grew up surrounded by a family of nurses – including her mother, aunt, cousin, and godmother – she initially resisted the unspoken pressure to tread a similar path. Instead, Heidi was drawn towards community health education. Her dream was to promote health, prevent illness, and keep people out of the hospital.
However, life often takes us in unexpected directions. As Heidi navigated her early career, she conceded to nursing, working as a hospital aide and later as a nurse extern. She grew to appreciate the hospital setting but her core passion always remained: educating people to prevent illness.
This led her to the rehabilitation side of nursing, where she found immense satisfaction in guiding patients and their families through recovery. As Heidi puts it, “The nurse is the quarterback for the team, ensuring patients and their families are equipped with knowledge and care tailored to their needs.”
After relocating to Michigan, Heidi advanced to a nursing leadership role managing a 24-bed inpatient rehabilitation unit. Her interest in collaboration, patient education, and interdisciplinary teams stood out. When the hospital introduced Cerner, Heidi stepped in to represent the nursing department and found herself immersed in the world of informatics, changing the course of her career yet again.
After spending several years leading healthcare teams through the adoption of electronic health records, and then acting as a consultant for Cerner, Heidi ventured into developing a cross-continuum patient education strategy at Trinity Health. Working on a patient engagement portal, she emphasized that hospital care is only a fragment of the patient’s healthcare journey. The real challenge? Ensuring sustained care and knowledge once the patient returns home.
Heidi’s journey eventually brought her to Caregility and the realm of virtual care. As a Product Manager for the company’s virtual clinical consultation software, she influences tech design, features, and strategies that directly affect patient and clinician end-users. Her goal remains consistent: supporting patients, families, and clinicians throughout the healthcare journey. She believes that technology empowers clinicians to deliver their best care.
“Our job as a technology company is to provide tools that empower clinicians to give the best care they can deliver. This aligns with my passions, which have always been working as a team, collaborating in the best interest of the patient and their family, and supporting clinicians to deliver excellent care.”
– Heidi Steiner
When asked about her ideal vision for healthcare, Heidi paints a picture of seamless health information sharing, patient-driven care plans, and more holistic approaches to meeting patient needs. She sees virtual care bridging the gaps in episodic care, providing continuous insight into patients’ health patterns, and introducing new pathways for earlier intervention when necessary.
Heidi’s advice for anyone looking to venture into virtual care? “Walk, then run. Planning is essential, as is stakeholder involvement and a clear roadmap. ID your KPIs upfront and conduct routine milestone tracking to evaluate the success of your program. Evaluate as you go so you can change course as needed.”
With her certification in nursing informatics and a doctorate degree, Heidi exemplifies the importance of continuous iteration and learning. Her story serves as an inspiring reminder that while legacy can light the way, it’s our individual choices, commitment, and adaptability that truly shape our journey. Whether you’re a nurse pursuing your passion or a patient navigating your care plan post-discharge, that’s timeless wisdom.
Interested in connecting with clinical experts to discuss your hybrid care strategy? Contact us today!
How Virtual Nurses Improve Patient Satisfaction and Outcomes
Patients frequently need help understanding health information to navigate care in our complex medical system. Healthcare encounters – especially those in acute care settings – can be emotionally charged and intimidating experiences for patients, oftentimes leaving them with questions they may be too apprehensive or distracted to ask during their stay.
The lack of understanding of health education can put anyone, regardless of health literacy level, at risk of misunderstanding or missing important information about their follow-up care, leaving patients and hospitals more likely to suffer poorer outcomes, higher readmissions, and longer lengths of stay (LOS).
Overcoming Patient Education Challenges with Virtual Nursing
Properly educating patients about their condition and how to care for themselves after discharge can transform patient outcomes and improve the patient experience. Few clinicians would argue the importance of patient education but providing it in the hospital setting is a challenge for care teams as well as patients. Finding the time to educate patients and families, among all the other tasks nurses must juggle, can be daunting, particularly as workforce shortages persist.
That’s where virtual nurses come in.
In today’s telehealth-enabled world, an experienced remote nurse can perform patient education and discharge preparation, accomplishing many of the tasks that typically fall to floor nurses to support, including:
Accurately collecting the home medication list
Providing follow-up care instructions
Reviewing signs and symptoms to look out for
How it Works: Virtual nurses work with care managers to obtain the patient discharge list. The remote RN cameras into the patient room via a hardwired A/V solution or a cart-based telehealth endpoint. The virtual nurse, with the patient, performs a review of the patient’s medications, post-discharge activity, and when to next follow up with their doctor. The virtual nurse can also include the patient’s family or caregivers in the discharge education session.
For post-surgical patients, this process might include dressing change instructions. For a patient with a respiratory condition, discharge prep might consist of training on how to use a new inhaler properly. For a diabetes patient, patient education could entail how to administer insulin and basic dietary recommendations. In each case, the virtual nurse can perform teach or talk-back education with the patient to ensure they understand the information they’ve been given.
The Clinical and Financial Impact of Virtual Nursing
Virtual nurse workflows related to patient education and communication can have a measurable impact on patient outcomes and experience.
Hospitals can lose up to 3% of each Medicare payment for a year due to higher-than-anticipated readmission rates. Hospitals saw $320M in Medicare payment reductions due to readmissions for 2022. Hospitals can reduce the potential for readmissions by using virtual nurses to empower patients and in-home caregivers through quality health education that supports discharge readiness. Armed with accurate information presented at the right time, patients can make better decisions and take a more active role in their care, which improves outcomes and helps reduce rehospitalizations.
Half of HCAHPS patient satisfaction measures – directly impacting hospital and provider reimbursements – focus on communication between the patient and healthcare team. Low HCAHPS scores can hurt the hospital’s reputation and limit funding received from Medicare. Providing patients access to virtual nurse support and personalized education can restore their sense of control over their health. Patients feel valued when the care team communicates with them in a way they can understand and are more likely to recommend the hospital as a result. Informed patients are also more engaged in their care and see better long-term outcomes.
Deploying Virtual Nurses to Support Patient Education
Here are a few guidelines to help you build an effective virtual nursing program designed to support patient education:
To close communication gaps, get the virtual nurse in early to get the plan of care going and keep the care team in step. Virtual nurses should engage RNs, care managers, patients, therapists, providers, and families as appropriate.
The education process should start at admission and be consistent rather than a hurried one-off task at the end of an acute care stay. Initiating conversations around follow-up care early on gives patients time to ask questions prior to discharge.
Identify the learner, whether an in-home caregiver, hired help, or another resource, and include them in patient education when possible.
Implement train-the-trainer programs to support and standardize patient education and communication practices.
Ensure you have resources in place to overcome language barriers. Language accessibility is vital to equitably empowering all patients, and its accommodation is required by law. When considering language access solutions, assess how easily the virtual nurse can bring an interpreter into virtual calls.
Use teach-back methods to ensure patients understand the information provided at discharge. Ask patients to explain in their own words the necessary steps to support their health and the next steps in their care journey.
Show-me methods allow care team members to verify that patients understand how to operate any medical devices that may be part of their follow-up care.
Incorporate best practices to overcome low health literacy into patient communications. These include avoiding medical terms, limiting information to three to five key points, and using education written at a fifth-grade reading level.
While many of these concepts are familiar to healthcare teams, introducing virtual nurse resources into workflows lays the foundation for more empowered patients, improved clinician experience, and greater financial solvency. These hybrid care models are rapidly evolving to play a pivotal role in strengthening patient communication, care processes, and outcomes.