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This Virtual Patient Observation Program Makes Patients VIPs

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Author name: Lee Health

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virtual patient observation graphic

Lee Health continues its technological innovation to help our patients with the new Virtual Patient Observation Program (VPO), which constantly monitors high-risk hospitalized patients.

“Some hospitalized patients require more monitoring and supervision than others,” says Dr. Larry Antonucci, Lee Health President and CEO. “It could be that they are a fall risk, have an altered mental state or confusion, or even have dementia. Hospitals and health systems across the country have employed safety technicians who sit in the patients’ rooms to watch them and ensure their safety.”

The ability of the VPO to help prevent patient falls is no small thing, not when experts estimate more than 84 percent of adverse events in hospital patients are related to falls, which can prolong or complicate patient recovery.

How Does VPO Work?

The VPO program connects safety techs with clinical staff so they can exchange real-time information and make quick decisions based on their communications. A lead virtual safety technician wheels a camera cart into the room, and a virtual safety technician watches a continuous live feed of the patient's room.

The safety tech can observe, talk to, or initiate two-way communication with the patient, operate the video camera in the patient room remotely, and quickly and seamlessly alert nurses and other clinicians or staff if intervention is warranted.

For example, if a patient at risk for falls is unable to take direction and appears as if they are trying to leave their bed without assistance, the virtual safety technician can sound an alarm that prompts the nursing staff to immediately visit the patient’s room and help them.

The camera live streams only and doesn’t record. In the same way, a person in the room would avert their eyes or step away, and the camera can also be redirected for patient privacy.

The VPO brings peace of mind because patients and their families can feel reassured knowing that someone is always there monitoring them.

“As a nurse, VPO is tremendously helpful,” explains Kayla Smith, a nurse with HealthPark Medical Center. “Especially when I’m rounding on other patients. VPO gives us another set of eyes on the patient. I have had times where I hear the alarm and the patient is already almost off the bed, so if the patient didn’t have that VPO, they would have fallen.”

Provides Real-Time Health Updates

VPO has expanded the capacity of the safety technicians because each virtual safety technician can monitor multiple patients, as many as eight at one time, which means more patients who need this level of care can get it.

“Now, using this technology, we can keep our patients monitored and safe and ensure everyone on the team can fulfill their appropriate responsibilities,” Dr. Antonucci says.

Carmine “CJ” Scerbo, a nursing director at HealthPark Medical Center and its progressive care unit (PCU), is on board with the VPO in a big way.

“We started using VPO in March 2022, and since then, we have seen a decrease in our falls and falls with injuries. There are other things that we have done to help reduce falls, but I believe VPO has significantly helped our patient population."

Reduces Healthcare Costs

VPO started as a pilot program at HealthPark Medical Center before expanding to the other hospital campuses and Lee Health Coconut Point. The program has produced cost savings, another win. It reduces the need for extra manpower while letting nurses focus their time and energy on the delivery of more demanding and complex care.

Before VPO, a safety tech would need to stay in the patient’s room and watch them for their entire stay. “It was more hands-on help with feeding, assisting in getting up and down,” said Lead Virtual Safety Tech Hakim Thompson. “With this, you can watch six or more patients at a time, which is more efficient; you can cover a little bit more ground for just one person.”

WATCH: Virtual Patient Observation Program

CJ and Kayla said that they appreciate the VPO program for the value it brings to their workflow and the safety of their patients. They agree, too, that the VPO has brought peace of mind to the families of their patients because they know someone is always watching their loved one, ensuring their safety when they can’t be there.

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