How virtual nursing can guide patients and nurses into the next era of healthcare

April 30, 2024 |  Nurse, Patient Engagement, Healthcare IT, Value


Since 2020, the workplace hasn’t been the same. But while many other industries have returned with remote or hybrid jobs, health systems continue to need staff in-person and in full force. This can contribute to staffing shortages, minimal workforce retention, burnout, and documentation overload. 

A National Academy of Medicine study found that 35%-54% of clinicians report at least one symptom of burnout – more than double the amount found in other fields. Nurses have been impacted in particular, as they are constantly juggling documentation, admission, medication, discharge, and other responsibilities that compete with the time and attention they give to their patients. 

Virtual nursing is one way organizations are addressing these industry-wide challenges in the healthcare space. Virtual nursing is an expanding care model that helps health systems solve the various challenges inpatient nurses face today, such as reducing documentation burden and improving patient outcomes.  According to a recent memo from National Nurses United, “The registered nurse workforce is growing – just not inside hospitals or other acute-care settings.” This shift forces health systems to take a closer look at what their nurses need and develop innovative solutions that support nurses and consider the challenges of their high-stress environment.

With the opportunity to perform duties remotely, experienced nurses are able to engage with patients via video at the bedside and help complete documentation behind the scenes. Providing remote support to supplement the care given by nurses at the bedside allows the entire care team to run more efficiently. Nurses will always be needed on the floor, but steps can be taken to minimize their administrative burdens and reduce burnout by allocating tasks to nurses working virtually.

As virtual nurses are away from the hustle and bustle of activity on the floor and cannot be pulled aside, they can approach their tasks with fewer interruptions, leaving them time to complete things like documenting a detailed and thorough medication history. Meanwhile, nurses on the floor are given the opportunity to connect with their patients, provide hands-on care, lend support, and communicate with the patient’s family and caregivers..

Providing patients with continuous access to a virtual nurse during their inpatient stay can help to improve patient satisfaction. Rather than having to track down a busy bedside nurse, patients can receive prompt responses to questions and engage in virtual interactions with nurses working remotely. Patient empowerment and engagement is a direct result of virtual nursing as these nurses can take the time to encourage patients to be more active participants in their own care journey.

MEDITECH knows that this growing model can empower healthcare organizations to drive efficiency and increase patient and nurse satisfaction. When the whole care team utilizes Expanse, virtual nurses can focus on the following tasks to help relieve the burden on bedside nurses:

  • Admission documentation
  • Medication history
  • Discharge processes
  • Patient education
  • Staff mentoring
  • Surveillance trending

MEDITECH supports customers like HCA who have already begun to adopt this care model and taken the opportunity to address nursing shortages at their organization head on. A recent article by Health Exec revealed a significant drop in hospital employment among RNs older than 40, saying that this shift began before the pandemic and has only accelerated since. HCA is meeting their nurses where they are by implementing a solution that provides the opportunity to extend a nurse’s career in an acute care setting without the same physical demands of in person care.

MEDITECH is developing technologies that can help supplement virtual nursing. AI and ambient listening provides data and guidance to nurses by listening in the room to analyze information and identify trends. Smart rooms used in conjunction with virtual nursing can have ambient listening sensors that detect if a patient has a question or is in need of help, or even trying to get out of bed when they shouldn’t. 

The opportunity for additional virtual nursing benefits extends to wound care, care coordination, and nutrition and dietary consults. With advanced visual technologies, like high-tech cameras, virtual nurses can zoom into wounds to measure and assess for healing. Visits for case management and nutrition and dietary consults can be done virtually, maximizing resources and improving care coordination overall. 

Virtual nursing introduces an alternative care model that helps support both patients and clinicians. Dividing hands-on care and administrative tasks between nurses working at the bedside and those working virtually maximizes efficiency and addresses industry concerns like burnout and labor shortages. MEDITECH is committed to evaluating industry trends with consideration, looking deeply at nuanced and complex issues, and listening to the successes and concerns of our customers. Always keeping the clinician and patient at the forefront, MEDITECH is helping customers operationalize novel care models and reap the benefits. 

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Written by Pamela Crandall MS, CCC/SLP, Senior Marketing Solutions Manager, MEDITECH

Pamela Crandall is a MEDITECH Senior Marketing Solutions Manager. In her role, she monitors care coordination trends and issues impacting nurses and other care providers (including quality care delivery, surveillance, and post-acute care). Pam keeps healthcare leaders informed of our initiatives through direct interaction and participation in industry events. She is also a practicing Speech Language Pathologist with a Master’s of Science in Communication Disorders from Boston University. With over two decades of experience in the healthcare industry, Pam is passionate about helping the healthcare community understand MEDITECH’s vision and commitment to telling the full patient story across the entire continuum of care.
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