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Virtual observation reduces patient falls, operational costs

by Atrium Health

Published on 4/18/2018

Atrium Health’s (formerly Carolinas HealthCare System) medical staff now utilizes 3-D motion-tracking cameras coupled with intelligence to keep a watchful eye on patients. The health system implemented Cerner Patient Observer™ (rebranded as eSitter at Atrium Health) at Carolinas Rehabilitation hospitals during October 2016. Since implementation, patients under virtual observation and the overall unassisted falls rate for the rehab unit fell 51 percent.1

Cerner Patient Observer (eSitter) is technology that allows us to monitor up to 12 patients at a time with one staff member at a centralized monitoring station,” said Becky Fox, MSN, RN-BC, assistant vice president and chief nursing informatics officer. “It has allowed us to put more falls-risks patients under observation while avoiding the cost of additional sitters, and we’ve seen a reduction in patient falls as a result.”

With the virtual patient observation solution, the monitoring technician is proactively alerted of an at-risk patient movement and enables them to communicate directly with the patient in the room to redirect them or alternatively to escalate to the care team for immediate bedside assistance.

“If a patient is getting out of bed and needs assistance, we can quickly communicate and get a nurse to go check on the patient in the room,” said Fox.

One-year post implementation, Atrium Health’s Carolinas Rehabilitation hospitals saw its unassisted falls rate drop from 4.36 to 2.10. 1 Restraint days, the days hospital staff had to use restraints to restrict a patient, dropped from 260.46 days to 189.91.1

By implementing Cerner Patient Observer, Atrium Health can now provide observation to more falls-risk patients without the additional cost of sitters, restraints or net beds.

“Patient safety is always a top priority, especially caring for our increasingly more acute patients,” said Cindy Sartain, vice president, chief nurse executive for continuing care services. “We sought innovative ways to address fall prevention while better utilizing staff. The implementation of eSitter showed immediate positive results in a number of ways. Not only has the number of restraints been reduced, staff productivity has increased and overall labor costs have been significantly decreased.”

Nurses at the monitoring station also have the ability to communicate with the patient, via two-way audio, from their remote location.

“We have pre-recorded messages in multiple languages asking the patient to stay in bed,” said Walter Broadhurst, application specialist.

Fox says the solution can also help ease the mind of family members as well.

“Family members don’t want to see their loved ones in net beds,” she said. “By having a virtual sitter and someone who’s able to monitor the patient at all times, it gives that patient freedom.”

Sartain thinks eSitter (Cerner Patient Observer) helps in a variety of ways.

“Our health care techs now have a new tool to better monitor patients. eSitter provides these teammates an opportunity to continue growing in their role with an improved skillset.”

Following the success in the rehab unit, Atrium Health plans on expanding to other venues and exploring additional use cases.

“We’re going to pilot the program in a pediatrics setting at Atrium Health’s Levine Children’s Hospital, as well as experiment with different workflows and patient types,” said Broadhurst.

1 From November 2015-October 2016 to November 2016-October 2017

To view a KPI about falls rate reduction, please visit our Model Experience page.

Client outcomes were achieved in respective settings and are not representative of benefits realized by all clients due to many variables, including solution scope, client capabilities and business and implementation models.