McLaren Northern Michigan Adds Virtual Nursing to Care Resources


PETOSKEY — A newly implemented virtual nursing platform at McLaren Northern Michigan looks to bring people, patients, content and technology together to help assist patient care.

An advanced approached to patient care, virtual collaboration with real-time patient care information may be a game-changer as it may improve the speed and accuracy of care delivery, according to Banyan Medical Systems.

As many healthcare teams are struggling with nursing shortages, the rising costs of traveler positions, senior staff retiring and the pressures to meet clinical outcomes and quality measurers for reimbursements, Banyan’s platform allows health delivery transformation by eliminating fragmentation and enabling care team collaboration.

“The best way to describe it would be FaceTime with a nurse,” said Jennifer Woods, vice president of nursing and chief nursing officer at McLaren Northern Michigan. “You can ask questions to an experienced nurse. It is a timely conversation with am medical professional.”

While McLaren Northern Michigan employs traditional nurses within the hospital, virtual nurses will also be specially trained to be virtual nurse leaders using audio and visual technology to respond to the needs of the patients and caregivers.

Virtual nurses may answer questions from the patient and their family, educate patients, give discharge instructions and display content on the screen. Virtual, or telenurses, also allow for a wide spectrum of care, including fall prevention, patient monitoring, virtual sitters for high-risk patients and more controlled drug compliance.

The technology is simple to use for both patient and family members. When the virtual nurse call button is selected, a virtual nurse will ask if it is OK to turn on the camera.

A TV monitor turns on and displays the live nurse and a camera located within the patient room will turn on, allowing the virtual nurse to see the patient. Reflecting the importance of patient privacy, the virtual nurse will always seek permission before turning on the camera.

The delivery of nursing services by remote technology is already common. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, more than 70 percent of healthcare providers currently use some form of remote digital medicine — a rise from 54 percent five years ago.

These services are made up primarily of mental health and primary care engagements such as patient apps, e-visits, remote patient monitoring or remote monitoring of off-the-shelf consumer devices.

“My husband was a patient at McLaren Northern Michigan,” said Irene McCamant. “The virtual nurse would always ask permission before ‘coming in’ and would answer any question he or I had. She would even update us on tests needed.

“When he was released, the virtual nurse went through all the discharge information with us,” McCamant added. “She was very professional.”

Patients will continue to have a dedicated bedside nurse who provides all the hand-on care that is needed to continue the road to recovery, including medical assessments, medication administration and treatments. Meanwhile, the virtual nurse will assist with admission, rounding, education and discharge.

Physicians may also call the virtual nurse to bring up lab work or imaging results to support the physician consult. “It is a team effort that results in improved coordination of care, better communication between the patient and care team and added involvement with health care decisions,” Woods said. “The virtual nurse will bring more collaboration and care to the patients and families. This is a wonderful addition to care program at McLaren Northern Michigan.”