Virtual Nursing’s Reach Within Hospitals
In a recent HealthLeaders article, “Hospitals are Looking for Hard ROI in Virtual Nursing,” author Eric Wicklund confers with healthcare executives on the difficult task of pinning down value for the nascent care model. Given the multitude of ways that Virtual Nursing can be deployed, one of the most challenging aspects of rolling out a program is identifying where virtual nurse resources can make the most impact. This will inevitably vary from facility to facility.
“Each hospital is approaching the issue from a different direction, ranging from basic [virtual] sitter programs targeting patient monitoring and fall prevention to platforms that support new nurses to more complex telenursing platforms that combine monitoring with administrative functions,” Wicklund observes.
Although determining where virtual nurse resources can deliver the most significant benefits can be a complex task, one of virtual nursing’s most remarkable attributes is its adaptability and versatility, enabling its deployment across various units within the hospital. Here are several illustrative examples of how virtual nurses can be leveraged to improve patient care across the inpatient enterprise.
Tele-ICU Support: One of the most well-known applications of virtual nursing is in the intensive care unit (ICU), where virtual nurses provide round-the-clock monitoring, early intervention, and clinical support to high-risk patients. They work in conjunction with intensivists and on-site staff to enhance patient care and safety, assisting with real-time data analysis and intervention.
Emergency Department (ED) Assistance: Virtual nurses can play a crucial role in the ED, supporting triage, patient assessment, and timely decision-making. By providing remote guidance and expertise, they help alleviate the pressure on ED staff, ensuring efficient care delivery, especially during high-demand periods.
Cardiology Care Coordination: In cardiology units, virtual nurses can assist in monitoring and managing care for patients with heart conditions, including angioplasty and stent procedure recovery. They help ensure timely detection of patient deterioration, medication adherence, and ongoing patient education, promoting better outcomes for cardiac patients.
Sepsis Care: Virtual nurses are well-suited to monitor patients at risk of sepsis. They can continuously assess vital signs and clinical data, identify early warning signs, and alert care teams to intervene promptly, potentially preventing this life-threatening condition.
Neurological Care: Patients in neurology units, such as those recovering from strokes or traumatic brain injuries, often require close monitoring and frequent interventions due to memory impairment. Virtual nurses can provide consistent support, reminding patients about instructions and interventions, and helping reduce the burden on in-person staff.
Skilled Nursing Facilities (SNFs): Beyond the hospital, virtual nurses can extend their reach to post-acute care settings like SNFs. They assist with patient assessments, medication management, and rehabilitation programs, ensuring that patients continue to receive high-quality care even after discharge.
This diverse landscape of use cases underscores the flexibility of Virtual Nursing. Healthcare organizations can tailor their adoption journey to meet specific goals, introducing virtual nurse resources to units most in need of additional support and units most likely to correlate to patient outcome improvements.
When expanding virtual nursing programs to additional units, it’s essential to start small and grow incrementally. As you implement your initial program, you’ll likely find that clinical staff closest to patient care delivery will generate new ideas and identify opportunities for improvement. Their feedback and insights can drive innovation, unlock additional ROI, and shape the future of virtual nursing within your organization.
Many see Virtual Nursing as a natural next step in the evolution of patient care models, proposing that there will come a time in the not-too-distant future when virtual nurses are an essential part of every hospital care team. In addition to helping health systems offset chronic staffing problems, looking ahead, Virtual Nursing models can introduce new pathways for providers to extend care into patients’ homes to support chronic care management and preventive medicine on a broader scale.
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