Collaborative Virtual Care Lowers Costs, Improves Safety and Gives Back Critical Nursing Time to Hospitals

March 15, 2023
Article written by Ashley VonNida, DNP, MBA, MSN

collaborative virtual care

Equum Medical’s Virtual Care Collaboration Center (VCCC) near Nashville, Tenn., has become a thriving hub of real-time remote monitoring, with a unique mix of visual observation, expert nurse oversight and physician guidance to stop adverse events before they occur. The experience has exceeded our high hopes, with data-driven workflows making telehealth more seamless. It has truly been a fulfilling experience to guide this effort, and Equum looks forward to exceeding expectations.

The VCCC eliminates the need to divert critical nursing assistant resources to sit in at-risk patients’ rooms to keep them safe. Equum is one of the pioneers in remote sitting, and we are the first to pair that service with highly experienced RNs, who oversee the safety specialists and can step in when there is a case involving the need for medical intervention. The nurses in turn can consult with Equum’s physician teams. The center brings together three of our service lines – Virtual Nursing, Virtual Sitter and Remote Patient Monitoring of vital signs – under one roof.

For more than a decade, Equum has been increasing local and regional satisfaction and trust to providers large and small through our ProviderPODTM model – multispecialty groups of physicians drawn from our national provider network who work from secure remote locations to fill hospital gaps in staff and expertise. In contrast, the VCCC is all about hybrid care, where efficient, efficacious services converge to take advantage of a hospital’s existing telehealth technology or that of one of our partner companies.

With the need for these services exploding, we are staffing up big-time. Not surprisingly, a lot of my time is spent interviewing job candidates. With so many talented nurses having left the bedside in the past two years to burnout from 24-hour shifts and COVID, the level of talent we are getting is high. Many experienced nurses are tired of days on their feet, lower pay and dangerous working conditions. For them, Equum is a perfect fit.

The patients we monitor

  • 57% confused
  • 29% poor short-term memory
  • 28% impulsive
  • 13% psych

At the VCCC we've helped avoid dozens of falls and a surprising number of attempted elopements. I am most impressed by the thousands of hours of nursing resources we are giving back to hospitals monthly.

Training days

Virtual safety specialist hires begin with the basics, a full day of virtual training using modules we built in HealthStream, including working through a full range of patient encounter scenarios that will soon be very real. The new hires must be quick to learn the monitoring software we use, so they can effectively document interventions while watching a dozen patients and calling for staff to come to the rescue when needed. The remaining education comes in one-on-one work with an Equum trainer and time spent watching patients on screen and getting more comfortable with the interactive tools in the system.

The need for continual training arose immediately, as in our first week of go live with our newest client, we were asked to monitor psych patients in two units. In years of doing this kind of work I would say behavioral health is not exactly a way to ease into video monitoring. It usually is rolled out to prevent patient falls. We had to learn fast the many dos and don’ts of working with behavioral health patients. And yet our early work was so successful that our program was rolled out to the whole hospital just four days after implementation.

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Another task we have is monitoring neuro patients, many with traumatic brain injuries. They lack awareness of their surroundings and can be especially impulsive in getting out of bed. At the same time the nature of their injuries is such that they simply cannot afford to fall.

The personal stories of lives being protected are already piling up, but every once in a while you get a case that truly warms the heart. We had a young patient whose watchful and worried mother finally had to go to her workplace for a few hours. Our team checked in with the boy continually, so he knew he was being cared for in his mother’s absence.

Our clients don't have enough nurses and certainly can’t continue to spend millions of dollars on one-to-one sitters. Equum gets nursing assistants back to regular duties, freeing RNs to work at the top of their licenses. Our virtual safety specialists at-risk patients in bed, meet routine requests, speak with families and more. Our biggest hope is for the day when what we do no longer needs to be called telehealth – just another part of the care team.

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