'Redesigning the future': How Guthrie is taking virtual care to the next level

Sayre, Pa.-based the Guthrie Clinic has created a virtual care command center, dubbed the Pulse Center, that mixes the use of technology and people to supplement its nursing staff and assist them with clinical care. 

The Pulse Center hosts a team of registered nurses that virtually support the health system's five campuses.

These remote nurses monitor patients using cameras and two-way audio communication. This allows the health system to monitor changes in a patient's condition in real time and proactively intervene when necessary. 

Debra Raupers, MSN, RN, enterprise chief nurse executive, told Becker's this initiative has helped support its clinicians, as new graduates didn't get to receive hands-on training during the pandemic. 

"Newly licensed nurses are eating it up," she said. "Just like I can call a physician for my visits with patients, I can now call a virtual nurse to be there with me and my patient."

Ms. Raupers said the virtual nurses give staff the opportunity to always have experience available to them or other clinicians available to come in the room and help them. 

"It's always giving the perspective of having another clinician available without having to go seek them," she said. "There's just so many things that you actually need a second clinician for in healthcare today, and this virtual nurse fulfills that role and does not interrupt the nurses that are giving the bedside care."

The Pulse Center has not only helped Guthrie supplement its nursing workforce, but has also provided some financial benefits to the health system.

"We were missing about 50 transfers a month," Terri Couts, RN, chief digital officer of Guthrie, told Becker's. "Now we are only losing about 19 a month, which is a big difference, and as we continue to focus on the processes around bed placement and understanding our staffing model related to staff beds, this will only continue to facilitate a decrease in loss of transfers into our system."

When it comes to the future of innovative care delivery models like this, Ms. Couts sees the Pulse Center has an investment that can improve the overall patient experience.

"I think it will actually align to better patient experience, more standardization and increase quality outcomes," she said. "We know that we can't continue to practice the way we are today. There's just not going to be enough hands even if we could afford it. And so adding technology enables us to care for patients differently and reach them where they want to be reached, whether it's at home, in a different facility, or through home health."

Ms. Raupers said these kinds of initiatives are "redesigning the future" of care.

"This allows people to get the level of care that they need virtually, that didn't exist before, which saves lives," she said. 

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