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Virtual Health Care

CHI's New Nursing Model (Virtual Care Health Services)

July 22, 2014

Catholic Health Initiatives (CHI), based in Englewood, Colorado, has roughly 93 hospitals in 18 states.  CHI is a faith-based, diversified health system investing in new capabilities, research and innovations that will transform health care delivery and improve health across the many communities we serve.

One way that we are seeking to advance our mission is through our Virtual Care model that currently is being prototyped in one of our hospital’s medical-oncology units at Saint Elizabeth Regional Medical Center in Lincoln, NE.

CHI’s nursing leadership is developing a new virtual care delivery model that will fundamentally redefine the care delivery model in the acute care setting, enhance patient satisfaction and quality of care, and increase educational opportunities.  The model combines advances in technology monitoring and communications with a remodeling of nursing roles to create a significantly more efficient and effective system.  Simply, the model enables the right skill levels for the corresponding patient need.

The Virtual Care prototype program is focused on designing and testing the Clinical Nurse Leader (CNL) role in a virtual environment.  The Clinical Nurse Leader is a master’s-prepared, certified, advanced generalist and is considered a leader in the health care delivery system across all settings.  CNLs are considered experts in systems thinking, quality and safety initiatives (focusing on the Triple Aim priorities), and education and mentoring for both patients and staff.  The CNL will direct the care of the patient remotely, in partnership with unit staff, via a Virtual Command Center (VCC).  The VCC will include hardware and software technologies, access to the electronic patient and patient diagnostic records, integrated medical devices and videoconferencing capabilities.

The entire prototyping process will run about 14 months, ending in August 2014.  At the conclusion of the prototype phase, we will have one unit that has optimized the use of a Virtual Nurse as a key clinical leader for overall patient oversight and care management.   This testing period is fundamental for innovating “how” the Virtual Nurse role is best deployed and for identifying the technologies needed to support the role.  The prototyping phase also is the time when we can work on redesigning the nursing roles and staffing models.  The staffing component will be critical to the overall transformation because it will have the largest impact on the immediate financial return and build the foundation for improved patient satisfaction and improved comprehensive care management.

CHI has invested more than $350,000 in the prototype phase, with the goal of piloting the project and expanding it to other CHI sites.  At that time, we hope to raise at least $3 million.