December 15, 2009 | | Comments 0
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Virtual nurse aids with patient discharge

As medical records turn from paper to electronic only, and simulation training aids in nursing education, it is not hard to believe a virtual nurse is helping patients at the bedside with discharge information. Timothy Bickmore, a computer scientist at Northeastern University in Boston, MA designed the virtual nurse “Elizabeth” to help nurses and patients during the discharge process.

Elizabeth is a computer-animated character created from combining the facial expressions and gestures of doctors and nurses Bickmore taped. With the help of an animator, Bickmore was able to create all the animation segments the nurse delivers which Elizabeth will mimic when interacting with a patient.

With the new system, when a patient is ready for discharge, a touch screen computer can be wheeled to the bedside. All the patient’s discharge information is pre-programmed, so Elizabeth can directly help the patient answer any questions or concerns they might have.

Elizabeth can discuss the 1,500 most commonly prescribed medications and she also quizzes patients to make sure they understand the information given to them. If the patient happens to get a question wrong, and Elizabeth is unable to answer the question, the nurse receives an alert.

Although not intended to replace the nurses, but to help both staff members and patients, using virtual nurses like Elizabeth will help provide patients with a comprehensive informational review upon discharge. As the average discharge conversation between a nurse and a patient is eight minutes, the new system will allow patients to take their time and better comprehend the information presented to them.

Still in the clinical trials of the system, Bickmore eventually plans to develop an application where patient’s can talk to the virtual nurse while in the comfort of their own home.

Are there other means of technology available to help with patient discharge? What are some ways your facility helps with patient discharge? Do you think this will take away from patient/nurse interaction?

Source: Ivanhoe Newswire

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Filed Under: Healthcare communicationHot topicsTechnology


Sarah Kearns About the Author: Sarah is an Editorial Assistant in the patient safety group at HCPro, Inc. She contributes to two monthly newsletters; Briefings on the Joint Commission and Briefings on Patient Safety, and manages four e-zines; Accreditation Connection, AHAP Staff Challenge, Nurse Manager Weekly, and Healthcare Training Weekly. She also helps research new products for the patient safety and nursing market. She graduated from the University of Connecticut in 2008 where she earned her bachelor's degree in English.

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