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Virtual Nurse Program New Trend in Health Care by Idowu Olabode : November 03, 2015, 02:55:54 PM
Technology is constantly changing, and the future of health care may be changing with it. With a new virtual nurse program, CHI Health St. Elizabeth said it can make patients' hospital experiences better and its job more efficient.

Shawna Kittok's recent hospital stay wasn't all she expected.

"When she popped on the TV and then the camera like zoomed around, I was like 'What is going on in here,'" Kittok said.

Kittok's virtual nurse was checking in. Through a camera and TV screen in her room, Kittok and other patients on the adult inpatient unit have quick access to care.

"I had a question about a medicine that I was going to be starting, so I called the virtual nurse and she had time to sit and go through it," Kittok said. "The floor nurses don't really have that kind of time."

Right now, the virtual nurse can care for 12 patients from the command center. Soon, that number will jump to 20 patients. The program coordinator said this will allow floor nurses more one-on-one time with their patients.

"We anticipate the time of the floor nurses being in the room to increase and be with the patient more than in the background and doing some of the preparation for discharge and admission that the virtual nurse can take care of," CHI Health St. Elizabeth Virtual Nurse Project Coordinator Sue Schuelke said.

CHI Health St. Elizabeth integrated the virtual nurse program through a $1.4 million grant it received. Starting at the beginning of 2016, the hospital will staff the command center 24 hours a day, so a virtual nurse is always on hand.

"I think technology is here to stay and here to enhance," Schuelke said. "You look at what the health care reform system has been all about and it's better access, better care and better patient satisfaction. We can use technology to help meet all three of those needs."

"It was just nice to have that extra person, because sometimes you know, when you call for the nurse it can take a little while for them to get there," Kittok said. "With the virtual nurse, she's right there the minute you call."

The virtual nurse doesn't replace floor nurses at the hospital, but adds more people to help patients like Kittok.

The hospital said the virtual nurse still gives patients plenty of privacy, and asks to enter the room virtually before turning on the camera.

Good Samaritan hospital in Kearney also received grant money for the virtual nurse program.

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