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Virtual sitters enhance patient care at Orlando Health

Orlando Regional Medical Center.
Orlando Regional Medical Center.

Orlando Health is employing more virtual services to better allocate nursing resources, such as a virtual nursing program starting Tuesday.

The pilot program was launched to assist nurses on the floor by gathering information on family and medication history and providing an extra set of eyes. AdventHealth of Central Florida began using a similar virtual nursing program last year.

Earlier this summer Orlando Health began a virtual sitters program, which uses 24-hour access cameras and monitors to observe patients who might be at risk of harming themselves, such as those with dementia or delirium. Orlando Health was prompted to start the program due to postoperative patients who would get out of bed, fall, and hurt themselves.

Kelly Edmondson, the vice president of nursing and patient care, said prior to virtual sitters, if there were 20 patients, the hospital required 20 sitters to be physically present.

“Now we're able to move so that we have two or three people doing that work. The rest of the team can spend time with the patients who are too confused or too acutely ill to have sitters,” she said. "If you're in a bed too long, you begin to lose a little strength. And so while we're rehabbing people back to health, sometimes they have to be reminded that they don't have the same strength two weeks."

virtual sitter setup
Orlando Health
A virtual sitter will provide 24/7 oversight remotely through mobile cameras with video monitoring software. They can observe patients at risk for harm due to issues such as confusion, delirium, falling or leaving the room. The program is an extension of Orlando Health’s current model of delivering high-quality care to patients. On-site sitters will continue to watch over high-risk patients from inside their room to prevent a harmful incident.

Patients in need of sitters commonly experience "delirium" which is a phenomenon that causes a confused state of being that brings on a lack of awareness of one's surroundings, according to the Mayo Clinic.

"Delirium generally happens in the hospital setting when someone was saying maybe in an ICU setting, or a ventilator where they were sedated, unaware of day versus night," Edmondson said.

However, the program isn't only for those experiencing delirium. Patient safety attendants would also be monitoring the dementia patients, and even younger populations.

"A population we're pretty excited about being able to start this are people with eating disorders, who need someone monitor them and make sure that they're safe, but probably would benefit from having someone look at them remotely and maybe not an adult sitting in the room of a 13-year-old face to face," she said.

Safety attendants going virtual also alleviates any discomfort a patient might be feeling from having a person in the room with them.

"But when you're watching them or remotely, it's, it's peaceful for them, while still ensuring that we can monitor their safety," Edmondson.

Orlando Health launched 48 virtual sitter carts throughout its network including Health Central Hospital, Orlando Health South Seminole Hospital, Orlando Health Dr. P. Phillips Hospital, and Orlando Health Orlando Regional Medical Center. The goal is to expand its Virtual Center program to all inpatient hospitals.

Originally from South Florida, Joe Mario came to Orlando to attend the University of Central Florida where he graduated with degrees in Radio & Television Production, Film, and Psychology. He worked several beats and covered multimedia at The Villages Daily Sun but returned to the City Beautiful as a reporter for the Orlando Sentinel where he covered crime, hurricanes, and viral news. Joe Mario has too many interests and not enough time but tries to focus on his love for strange stories in comic books and horror movies. When he's not writing he loves to run in his spare time.
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