Alleviating staffing shortages with “virtual gatekeeper” patient observation solutions

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6 ways to ensure virtual patient observation success – for your care teams and your patients.


Patient observation conducted by “virtual” patients is an innovative response to ongoing staffing shortages in hospitals, helping them do more with less.

Conventional patient guards provide support in the chamber or in the curtain area for patients at risk of falling, injury, or self-harm. But providing a physical sitter to occupy each room can come with a hefty expense. Virtual patient observation can be a cost-effective alternative that helps improve patient safety.

In related articles, Caregility highlights the benefits of virtual patient observation and outlines the questions you need to ask when looking for a solution. Once invested in a system, you can establish best practices to ensure that your hospital staff and patients have the best and safest virtual patient observation experience.

1. Implement rigorous procedures to protect patient privacy.

Caregility Senior Vice President Wendy Deibert offers the following recommendations:

  • Do not record or store virtual patient observation video.
  • Require a badge to be scanned before the camera in the patient room can be turned on.
  • Obtain patient and/or caregiver consent through standard hospital admission forms.

2. Provide accessible training opportunities for staff.

Introducing any new technology can be daunting for hospital staff members, so give them the opportunity to practice and build their confidence with your virtual patient observation solution.

“A lot of times clinical staff will think, ‘This is a big project that’s going to take up a lot of my time and bandwidth,'” Devin Johnson, national account manager for NOVA Health, told Intel’s Insight.tech. . “We’ve tried to make deployment and training as easy as possible so nurses are more willing to embrace change.

3. Define which patients are eligible for virtual observation.

Virtual observation can be used for many patients, but not all.

Generally, patients with dementia or a history of falls are good candidates to be followed virtually.

However, patients who cannot fully interact with technology, including those who are visually or hearing impaired, or those who lack the cognitive ability to follow instructions, should instead be monitored in person.

4. Familiarize patients with virtual babysitters before turning on the camera.

For many patients and their caregivers, the concept of being monitored 24/7 by video will be confusing. Where possible, provide an in-person orientation for the patient and their caregivers to:

  • Explain why a virtual babysitter is used;
  • Describe the confidentiality safeguards in place to protect the patient;
  • Present the different parts of the technology; and
  • Show them how to interact with the platform.

5. Keep the patient load manageable.

Although virtual patient observation technology allows one person to easily attend to multiple patients in theoryin practice, this number should be limited so that the observer can give appropriate attention to each patient.

The workload for each virtual assistant varies depending on the capabilities of the hospital’s observing solution and its organizational policies, but is generally between 10 and 15 patients per observer.

6. Provide clear guidelines on how – and when – staff must request physical intervention.

Because time is of the essence in an emergency, virtual assistants need to know exactly when to call for help in a situation where patients are not responding to their instructions through the system. The escalation policy should name the colleague or supervisor they should recruit for physical assistance and identify when they can recommend that a patient be removed from virtual observation.

Although virtual guardian solutions are powerful, they are only tools – so it is imperative to take care of the human beings in charge. Deibert notes, “Ergonomics, shift coverage and rotations, and alleviating monotony should all be considered when implementing” a virtual patient observation solution.


Check out the original Caregility.com post and visit the Caregility Blog for content on telemedicine and remote patient monitoring.

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