Like other hospitals, New Hanover Regional Medical Center in Wilmington, N.C., assigns nurse assistants to provide one-on-one, constant observation for patients who are severely confused, at risk for self-harm or have fallen after trying to get out of their hospital bed.
These so-called sitters are merely observers: they don't participate in the care of a patient, and in some cases they're not even allowed to touch them. Their importance, however, can't be understated. They're an attempt to prevent the roughly 700,000 to 1 million patient falls that take place in U.S. hospitals each year. But leaders at New Hanover were convinced there had to be a more cost-efficient way to appropriately monitor these patients.
New Hanover and other hospitals are now trying technology developed by AvaSure, a Belmont, Mich.-based company that provides “telesitter” technology to monitor multiple at-risk patients at once. The solution, called AvaSys, allows a trained observer to remotely watch and interact with multiple patients.
The patient-facing component of AvaSys consists of a camera capable of night vision, a microphone and a speaker, usually on a wireless cart but also available to be permanently mounted in a care area. In another room, or at an off-site location, trained observers watch and talk to patients on an average of 12 screens each, with some hospitals assigning as many as 18 patients per observer.
The observers can redirect a patient who tries to get out of bed or pull at an IV tube line. They also have an alarm they can activate if a patient is in imminent danger. AvaSys can deliver pre-recorded messages in over 200 languages if a patient doesn't speak English, and there are privacy options if patients or clinicians want to block visibility during an exam or while dressing.
The technology is in use at more than 300 hospitals across a variety of care settings and departments, including oncology, rehabilitation, behavioral health and surgery recovery units. The company's customers include national hospital systems HCA and Ascension Health.