Enhancing Patient Education and Outcomes with Virtual Nursing

Navigating Complex Healthcare Through Virtual Nursing

The healthcare system is a complex web of information, and patients often need assistance in understanding and managing their health. Healthcare encounters, especially those in acute care settings, can be emotionally charged and intimidating for patients. Oftentimes, patients leave these encounters with questions left unasked due to apprehension or distraction. A November 2022 survey by Wolters Kluwer revealed that 66% of patients reported having unanswered questions after a healthcare encounter. The stress of hospitalization and information overload upon discharge often leads to patients forgetting vital health information, with studies indicating that 40-80% of medical information is forgotten immediately, and nearly half of retained information is incorrect.

The lack of understanding and health education can put patients, regardless of their health literacy level, at risk of missing crucial post-discharge information, leading to poorer outcomes, increased readmissions, and longer lengths of stay (LOS).

Empowering Patients with Virtual Nursing

Proper patient education is crucial for improving patient outcomes and their overall healthcare experience. While most clinicians acknowledge the importance of patient education, providing it within the hospital setting poses a challenge for both care teams and patients, especially amid workforce shortages. Virtual nurses offer a promising solution.

In today’s telehealth-enabled world, experienced remote nurses can perform patient education and discharge preparation, taking on tasks traditionally handled by floor nurses. These tasks include accurately collecting home medication lists, providing follow-up care instructions, and reviewing signs and symptoms to watch out for. The process involves virtual nurses working in collaboration with care managers to obtain patient discharge lists. Through hardwired A/V solutions or cart-based telehealth endpoints, virtual nurses connect with patients, reviewing medications, post-discharge activities, and follow-up appointments. This education can also extend to patients’ families or caregivers.

Clinical and Financial Impact of Virtual Nursing

The impact of virtual nurses in patient education and communication is substantial:

1. Reduce Readmissions: Hospitals can face financial penalties due to higher-than-expected readmission rates. Virtual nurses empower patients with quality health education, reducing the potential for readmissions and improving patient decision-making.

2. Shorten Length-of-Stay (LOS): Exceeding the predicted LOS can result in significant costs for hospitals. Virtual nurses facilitate early discharge processes, ensuring patients are well-prepared for the next steps in their care journey.

3. Improve HCAHPS Scores: Enhanced communication between patients and healthcare teams is a critical factor in patient satisfaction. Virtual nurses help patients feel more informed and engaged in their care, leading to better long-term outcomes and higher HCAHPS scores.

Implementing Virtual Nurses for Patient Education

To create an effective virtual nursing program for patient education, consider the following guidelines:

  • ┬áInvolve virtual nurses early in the care plan to keep all stakeholders informed,
  • Initiate patient education at admission and maintain consistency throughout the patient’s stay.
  • Identify and include learners, such as in-home caregivers, in patient education sessions.
  • Implement train-the-trainer programs to standardize patient education practices.
  • Address language barriers to accommodate all patients.
  • Use teach-back and show-me methods to ensure patient comprehension and device operation.
  • Incorporate best practices for low health literacy to make information accessible to all patients.

The integration of virtual nurses into healthcare workflows lays the foundation for more empowered patients, improved clinician experiences, and greater financial solvency. These hybrid care models are rapidly evolving to strengthen patient communication, care processes, and overall healthcare outcomes.