Is virtual nursing overstated?

A study conducted by digital health company Panda Health revealed that among digital hospital tools, virtual nursing has the least widespread adoption and is perceived as having the most exaggerated value. Health systems that have implemented it say otherwise. 

Among 100 hospital leaders surveyed by Panda Health, 35% of leaders said the perceived value of virtual nursing was exaggerated. These results counter the effects of hospitals and health systems who have implemented virtual nursing initiatives. 

For example, Chicago-based CommonSpirit Health told Becker's it intends to have virtual nursing in each of its markets by the end of 2023, as the initiative has been producing promising outcomes for the system. According to Kathy Sanford, RN, executive vice president and chief nursing officer at CommonSpirit Health, the health system has seen a significant boost in patient satisfaction scores and nursing satisfaction scores using virtual nursing. 

Virtual nursing at CommonSpirit has also contributed to a reduction in key metrics such as length of stay, infections and falls. 

Of the 100 leaders part of Panda Health's survey, only 13% said their organization has implemented virtual nursing.

OSF HealthCare, based in Peoria, Ill., has also seen positive patient feedback from testing virtual nursing in three of its medical-surgical units.

"Patients certainly have expressed that they have had a good experience with the virtual nurse both with the tablet as well as with the installed technology in the room," Brandi Clark, vice president of digital care at OSF, said in a news release. "A real benefit to the installed technology for the bedside nurses is that it requires no work from them to bring that technology into the room to the patient."

Patricia Mook, DNP, senior vice president of nursing operations, education and professional development for Advocate Health, told Becker's that virtual nursing is the "care of the future," and she attributed the enhancement of Advocate Health's nurse retention rate to the implementation of virtual nursing. 

Since May, the health system has witnessed a notable improvement in nurse retention, with a 60% decrease in registered nurse turnover rate and a 46% reduction in the RN vacancy rate. 

This led to Charlotte, N.C.-based health system to expand virtual nursing to 12 hospitals in 2023.

Virtual nursing initiatives are coming at a time where nursing turnover continues to remain a significant obstacle for healthcare organizations, as a notable proportion are expressing their intention to leave their positions. According to McKinsey, in a survey of 368 frontline nurses, 31% indicated a likelihood of departing from their current roles in direct patient care. 

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