Virtual sitters monitor patients to reduce falls

Every year hundreds of thousands of patients fall during their stay at a hospital, but HealthONE is using technology to try and bring those numbers down.

Some patients need to be watched.  Maybe they are on a mental health hold, or have a high risk of falling.  So HealthONE developed a virtual sitter with a camera and a communication device.

The virtual sitters are placed in patient rooms, and staff can monitor multiple patients remotely to see if they are agitated, leaning, reaching, or trying to get up.

If that happens, staff can alert the patient’s nurse or security immediately.  “We have really reduced falls across the hospitals.  We`ve allowed the nurses to have more eyes on the patients,” said Andy Draper, the Chief Information Officer for HealthONE.

Since implementation of the virtual sitter technology, North Suburban has reduced patient falls to less than 1% of all admissions.

So what do patients think about a camera in their room?  Do they worry about privacy?

“It depends on the patient,” said Kari Johansen, director of nursing resources for North Suburban Medical Center.

Staff say the system is HIPPA compliant and secure.

“None of the video is stored electronically, so it can’t be retrieved,” said Draper.

Plus, they claim the system is efficient.  Nurses no longer need to sit in a room with a patient to watch them.

“It’s been a really good success story for our nurses and for our patients,” Draper said.

However, if a patient has a very high risk for falling or injuring themselves, a nurse can still be assigned to sit at the bedside.

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