CommonSpirit plans to have virtual nursing in every market by end of '23

Chicago-based CommonSpirit Health intends to have virtual nursing in each of its markets by the end of 2023, with plans to have it across the entire system within five years.

The health system, which has more than 140 hospitals across 21 states, has started rolling out its proprietary virtual nursing technology with a recent launch at Saint Joseph Hospital in Lexington, Ky.

Early results have been positive, according to Kathy Sanford, RN, executive vice president and chief nursing officer at CommonSpirit Health.

"We have higher patient satisfaction scores, higher nursing satisfaction scores, decreased length of stay, decreased infections, decreased falls," Ms. Sanford told Becker's, noting the official study results will be released in about a year.

CommonSpirit has two types of virtual nurses: ones who work at a command center to help with admissions, discharges and transfers, and ones who are part of the care team, attending rounds with physicians and being available to patients at the push of the button. The system is debuting the initiative in its medical-surgical units.

"We think it will be the inpatient model of the future and someday connect to outpatient models that will also have a lot of virtual care for people outside the hospital," Ms. Sanford said.

The health system started developing the program in 2008, when its board approved it as a way to stem the nursing shortage forecasted for the early 2020s. In 2016, CommonSpirit became the first system to be awarded a patent for virtual nursing (for the combination of the care model and camera setup).

The internal platform was developed by Joel Ward, DO, system vice president of medical informatics, in partnership with Linda Goodwin, MSN, RN, system senior vice president of nursing transformation and innovation.

Ms. Sanford said the program benefits both new nurses, who have an experienced virtual colleague they can consult, and older nurses who might be able to stay in the profession longer. She said it is in no way meant to "replace nurses," but to make their jobs easier and give them more time to spend on patient care.

"It'll change as it evolves," she said of the program. "That's the great thing about innovation: It lets you evolve and get better. We want to be innovative, continue to change, and make sure we are meeting the needs of the patients, the employees, the organization itself and the communities we're serving."

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