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

By: Caregility Team
Home Blog 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.

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